Zen Leader Blog

Zen Leadership and a Happy New Year

Posted by Ginny Whitelaw

Jan 5, 2012 11:32:00 AM

The benefits of Zen leadership to the world and to yourself are abundant, but let’s start with one: an unconditionally happy New Year. To be masters of our happiness is an inside out choice – a flip from reacting to life to being a part of it and wholly owning our play. And when we make that flip, to quote the Zen koan, “Every day is a good day.”

So to really wish you a happy New Year, the best I could offer are the best practices I have found for making this flip to connectedness.  And if I had to distill it down to 3 tips, they would be these:

1-      Manage your energy: Connected consciousness is a mature stage of development, and the journey of development takes energy – no doubt about it!  To manage your energy is not to become self-absorbed in self-care, so much as to build healthy habits around diet and exercise, and find a sustainable rhythm in your day whereby you stretch and renew. Challenge yourself in new ways, learn new things, stretch new muscles, and then renew, rest, or reflect.  Stretch and renew.

2-      Add Value: Once you have energy to give, give it freely, abundantly, adding value wherever your heart calls you and wherever you stand.  Serve others, serve the situation, serve life.  At first you will think you’re doing this in order to be generous or a good person.  But what you’ll find is that you’re truly serving yourself on a bigger and bigger scale, that you feel less separate and more connected, and that your consciousness is expanding toward the wholeness that is your nature. 

Conversely, anytime I notice my focus shifting back to serving my own “local” interests, I know I am setting myself up for conditional happiness or unhappiness – whatever life delivers that day.  It’s natural and human to do this, but the joy and power of being the whole picture is unsurpassable.  When I shrink back into my skin-of-concerns, it’s often a sign that I need to get some energy or…

3-      Meditate: “Sit for 20 minutes a day and it will change your life,” Tanouye Roshi advised in a talk I heard 30-some years ago. I ran the experiment and I’m here to tell you: he was right. Sitting meditation is such a core practice because it creates the conditions for the state of connectedness (called Samadhi) that simply cannot be willed by the conscious mind.  It’s no surprise, either, that a growing body of research (see, for example, E. Dolman and D. Bond, The Ashridge Journal, Spring 2011, or R. Davidson et al. Psychosomatic Medicine 65:564-570, 2003) finds a positive correlation between meditators and happiness-related traits.  According to Davidson, positive brain changes are seen in people who have meditated for as little as 2 months. Start now, and by March you’ll be happier! And for those seeking a connection to the bottom line, check out this month’s Harvard Business Review lead article on “The Value of Happiness” and how it drives profits (Jan-Feb, 2012). 

It’s best to meditate with a teacher and a group, but to get started on your own or refresh what you know, download our meditation guide below.


Now we all know the fate of most New Year’s resolutions, including the resolve to practice even advice like these tips. If you’ve ever started and/or stopped a practice in meditation I’d be interested in your experience around what makes such a practice sustainable – or not. 

Wishing you an unconditionally Happy New Year!

Topics: zen leader, zen, meditation, happiness, managing energy

Welcome to the Zen Leader Blog

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This blog is dedicated to the concepts described in the book The Zen Leader by Ginny Whitelaw.  In this blog we discuss how these concepts are applied to a variety of current situations and applications, helping us all unleash the Zen Leader within us!

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