Zen Leader Blog

An Idiot's Guide To Awakening

Posted by Diane Chencharick

Aug 28, 2012 8:16:00 AM

awakening I had the fortunate opportunity last month to view an incredible film at the Smithsonian Air & Space museum called "Hubble 3D." Part of it was documentary - the fixing of the Hubble telescope in outer space. But the most profound parts, by far, were the images from outer space that Hubble was able to capture and send back once its lenses were functioning properly.

It's hard to even comprehend a light year, not to mention the images on screen that were MILLIONS of light years away. Trillions of galaxies like ours with planets and moons all revolving around their own "suns." Galaxies… black holes… stars being born… incredible photos that were merely a teeny tiny fragment of all that's out there. All the beauty and energy of the universe was right before my eyes. I was totally humbled.

This experience started me thinking about the last chapter in The Zen Leader - From Delusion To Awakening. I've always struggled understanding that chapter. The idea of nothingness and "no place to go" was so far from my daily life that awakening seemed really out of my realm of possibilities. But what I felt in that movie was a sense of being that went beyond all my self-defined notions of life. It made me think, at least for a moment, of myself at the molecular level - a mass of energy, part of a bigger universal source that was infinite. Was that the sense of "awakening" that Ginny was talking about? If it was, it felt awesome - powerful and humbling at the same time and I actually now have hope that I might be able to get there again sometime.

My biggest misconception of the term "awakening" stems from what I define as being awake. Unless you've got some form of narcolepsy, people wake up and stay that way for some time. This is not generally the case with spiritual awakening. One does not have an "aha" experience and stay that way; in fact, Ginny Whitelaw, who has become a Zen Master, laments in her learning how impossible it was to "maintain that condition," as her teacher instructed her to do. He also knew it was impossible, "but you have to try," he told her. All most of us might hope for is a taste, but once we have that taste, like a favorite savory meal, we want more.

"I'd read for years that ignorance is the root of delusion and suffering, and mistakenly equated "ignorance" with "stupidity," states Ginny in The Zen Leader. "Not so; we're plenty smart," she adds. "The evidence of our boundless, immortal nature is available to us all the time… but we ignore it; we are ignor-ant. Our boundless nature doesn't interest us because it doesn't move…It's not a story with a beginning, middle and dramatic end. We ignore it and choose a story instead: our story. Me."

I think I now understand why meditation is key to awakening. We need to slow down the mind chatter - the "Me" story - in order to sense our universal nature. I've dabbled in this a bit, but am now ready to dive in. I've enrolled in a program this September at the Institute For Zen Leadership - a brand new institute Dr. Whitelaw has founded that marries Zen to leadership, where it can do the most good. I hope to learn more about the practice of meditation and the value it brings to leadership, and life in general (contact Focus Leadership if you'd like more information on this - the Institute web site goes live September, 2012).

Who knows… maybe I'll even get a chance to experience another awakened moment - this time without the 3D glasses :-)

Topics: awakening, the institute for zen leadership, Hubble 3D, the zen leader, Ginny Whitelaw

Do We Really Create Our Own Reality?

Posted by Diane Chencharick

Aug 15, 2012 12:17:00 PM

describe the imageThe idea that we create our own reality is not a new concept, but as you'll read, a lesson I'm still learning. Werner Erhard, the controversial founder of the "est" movement in the 70's was the first one I can remember in my own lifetime to talk about this idea. But if we look back through the ages, we see this same concept in the Buddhist notion of "interdependent arising," or what Thich Nhat Hanh calls  "interbeing." Everyone, everything, everywhere interdependently co-creating the reality we call our world. Do we really create our own reality? If so, why aren't we doing a better job of it? 


Topics: creating our own reality, the zen leader, Ginny Whitelaw

Turning Your Vision Statement Into Reality

Posted by Diane Chencharick

Aug 1, 2012 5:14:00 PM

Every company seems to have one - a Vision or Mission statement that defines the type of company they aspire to be. Many hours, and often considerable expense, go into the development of this written platform of hope. They are plastered on walls, given prominent positions in Employee Handbooks and used as rallying cries by management - but that's where it often stops. Turning that statement into reality is a much harder task. Lets look at some of the reasons they fail, along with a flip that may help you make it a reality.

The Power of Engagement
Any company can share a vision, but unless their people become truly engaged in the common purpose, it rarely becomes a reality. The best leaders begin by building a sense of ownership and responsibility in their people. Empowerment, sharing progress, listening and responding - these are all things that draw people in to serving under an inspired leader. I worked for one company who opened their books and discussed the situation and outlook to everyone each quarter. People knew exactly where the company stood financially, which made everyone rally together when times were tough. And when times were good, the desire to see greater possibilities unfold was an equal motivator. Engagement is key.

Pull not Push
One of the biggest mistakes leaders make in trying to realize their vision is to try and push their people toward it. "To drive results is to push the present toward the future. It always comes from behind, and relentless habit of it makes us feel like we're always behind," states Ginny Whitelaw in The Zen Leader. "To attract the future is to create the pull of working with larger forces."

So what does this mean "to attract the future" and how do we go about doing it? I'd like you think of a time when you had a moment of inspiration. Inspired thought is very different than regular thinking. It's what The Zen Leader calls "a Samadhi-inspired insight that we translate into thought." When we flip from driving results to attracting the future, we "flip into this connected state, which also flips our relationship with time." For those of you who would like to delve into this a little deeper, here's a very eye-opening little timeline exercise from The Zen Leader that will illustrate the cause and effect of your own past and future events.

"Attracting the future is not a heroic act, so much as unifying our intention with what's ready to happen and bringing it about with our actions," says Dr. Whitelaw.

Listen And Make Adjustments As Needed
"If your future vision is able to be realized, joy will accompany your progress, and a wave of enthusiasm will build." This natural state will pull others along with you. If it's unrealistic, you'll hit stuck points where there is no path forward, no learning and no joy. This is where adjustments need to be made, but done so from a connected state. Keep listening - "…your vision will auto-adjust… and will inform your rational mind what to do next."

So much of our potential for growth and happiness is wrapped up in our own connectedness with Now. Through this ability to sense the hearts of our people, the practicalities of cause and effect and the natural timing of situations, "we become the transforming agent," that is, expressing the Zen Leader in you.


Topics: zen leader, vision statement, mission statement, happiness, the zen leader, Ginny Whitelaw

How Role Playing Helps With Problem Solving

Posted by Diane Chencharick

Jul 19, 2012 8:52:00 AM

If my many years in marketing taught me anything, it was the importance of understanding your customers and prospects. Before any creative project was started, we would develop a "Creative Blueprint" that clearly stated our objectives and goals. The Main Selling Proposition was considered to be the most important part of the blueprint. But what I found to be most useful - not just then, but now in my own leadership work - is getting a grip on Current Attitudes and Desired Attitudes. Here's how you can apply this strategy to find solutions to many of the issues you face:

Think about a problem you'd like to address. For this example, let's use something very basic like: "I want Sarah and Tom to work better together." Grab a pencil. Now it's time to write in each voice what Current Attitudes and Desired Attitudes exist around this issue. The easiest way to do this is in first person. For example, in imagining Tom's voice, I might write:  "Sarah does most of the work herself so I never feel like an important part of the team."  A desired attitude from Tom might be "My contributions to the team are important and recognized." Really try and BE that other person - feel what they feel. This kind of role playing brings awareness to the needs and aspirations that are not being met and will give you a broader sense of how to develop a solution to satisfy all needs at hand.

This exercise can be applied to bigger issues as well, like growing a business. It is described in great detail in The Zen Leader, chapter 9, From Local Self to Whole Self. By "casting a wider net," we are able to see all the players surrounding the issue and the part they play in the desired outcome. Ginny Whitelaw lays it out quite beautifully:
- state your goal
- widen your net
- role play each person. Imagine what if…
- let imagination become reality

"The more I understand perspectives I never would have imagined on my own, the more realistic my imagination becomes," states Ginny Whitelaw. When we "engage with empathy," bigger possibilities emerge, or what she describes as tapping into our "whole self."

Give it a try!

Topics: role playing, the zen leader, Ginny Whitelaw, whole self

Mindfulness and Well-Being: Another Trend or an Evolved Practice?

Posted by Anthony Attan

Jul 9, 2012 12:55:00 PM

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Topics: the zen leader book, mindfulness, well-being, zen, meditation, the zen leader, flips, energy, zen leadership

How THE ZEN LEADER Helped Me Deal With Alzheimer's

Posted by Diane Chencharick

Jun 19, 2012 7:30:00 AM

I have a dad who suffers from Alzheimer's. Well, maybe this statement isn't exactly right. He struggles and those around him suffer, is probably closer to the truth. As his condition deteriorates, I find myself becoming more and more an extension of himself, telling him where to put the garden gloves and how to find the cereal aisle. But the best lesson I learned in dealing with this dreaded disease came from a couple "flips" in consciousness I experienced, that I can attribute to my reading of The Zen Leader. I would like to share that experience with the hope of helping others who may be in a similar situation.

When dad was first diagnosed, the whole family, including me, flew into a panic. We cried, we worried, but our biggest fear of all is best summed up by that little inner voice that kept asking, "How am I going to HANDLE this?" Luckily, I had just read The Zen Leader and was able to stop myself from this perpetual downward spiral into helplessness and self pity. Here are the two lessons that changed things for me.

Lesson Number One: BE PRESENT
I do not live with my father, so when I arrived for a visit, it was typical for me to spend an inordinate amount of time doing some sort of mental assessment of where he was compared to our last visit and if he had slipped further. This did two things: it turned me into an inquisitor - probing, questioning and making my mental assessment, but worst of all, it robbed me of the precious time I had with this fine man. I don't do that anymore.

Chapter 1 of The Zen Leader takes us From Coping to Transforming. I found this particularly beneficial in my current situation. I stopped looking for further signs of deterioration and started just being present and with him. Telling him about my day, my week, my life. Talking about my golf game and maybe taking him to the range to hit a bucket of balls (he loves golf) or outside in the yard gardening and watering plants. I realized that my constant forecasting of what's to come was holding my fear in the present. What I found was, by just being present in the moment, I can enjoy him in some of the same ways I always had - right then, right now. The man I have loved my entire life is still in that body. Would I feel any different toward him if he lost an arm or a leg? Losing part of his mental capacity is no different. I can still love him and cherish him as I had before. I just don't ask him what he did yesterday:-)

Lesson Number Two: SEE THE BIG PICTURE
I am not the only one directly affected by my dad's dementia. My mom, my brother, my sister, my children, friends and all respective family members are all dealing with this in their own way. When I read Chapter 9 of The Zen Leader, From Local Self to Whole Self, this all came together for me.

There is a little exercise where you map out all the people who can even remotely be part of this big picture and then role play and see what their needs are in the situation. By "casting a wider net," you are able to see how you can fulfill other's needs and bring more players together in harmony to address a current problem. I know this was written for leaders, but it works in this situation, too. I was able to see my mother's extreme fear and hear her "I can't do this" voice. I was able to feel my siblings' fear (who live in different states) of being hopelessly afar and helpless. I was able to sense the uncomfortable feelings their best friends now felt in being around them. Once I saw this, my "plan of attack" became pretty clear to me.

My mom desperately needed to feel that she wasn't alone. I now do whatever I can to help reduce this fear. I talk and listen. I take dad out of the house for awhile. I stay overnight on occasion. I have secured an outside firm to do twice weekly visits, as a starting point for their future needs. I've seen a dramatic shift in her - not just in her own happiness and state of mind but in how she interacts with my father. Consciously or unconsciously, she has decided to join the team:-)

I also now send email updates to my siblings every visit I have. Sometimes it's just reporting. Sometimes we discuss ideas. It keeps them in the loop and being part of the larger picture. I can't express enough the value in having us all working together as a unified team.

I know The Zen Leader was written as a leadership book, but the lessons inside can be applied for all aspects of life in general. For a glimpse, click here. Or, here's a link to Chapter 1 of the book. I expect it will bring great value to you as it did to me.

Topics: alzheimer's, dementia, the zen leader, flips

The Illusion of Control

Posted by Diane Chencharick

May 30, 2012 8:03:00 AM

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Topics: zen, the zen leader, flips, control, control issues, delegation

When Driving For Results Does More Harm Than Good

Posted by Diane Chencharick

May 13, 2012 8:07:00 AM

I come from a family of high-achievers, so driving for results is a very familiar pattern. We reward leaders who are good at this "push" strategy. But often times, their teams suffer and collapse under the constant pressure. People feel like they are "always playing catch-up"  with these high-powered individuals, and the result is burn-out, or the loss of valuable talent as they move elsewhere to relieve the strain. So, what's the alternative?

Like any marketing expert will tell you, a "pull" strategy, or one where the customer is drawn in rather than being pushed upon, is equally and often more effective than its counterpart. Lets think about this in terms of leadership. If we envision a future, can a leader attract the people and conditions to bring it about? Does the Law of Attraction apply here? The Zen Leader will tell you YES.

Slow down
The first step to attracting the future is to slow down and stop. This may seem contrary to your way of doing things, but by slowing down you have a greater sense of your market, your customer, your world - not just what's happening but what's missing, too. Stopping, if even for a moment, allows the mind to change gears and sense the opportunities.


Topics: law of attraction, the zen leader, flips, leadership

Overworked and underpaid? How would Zen Leadership help?

Posted by Ginny Whitelaw

May 6, 2012 12:19:00 PM

In connection with a webinar we hosoverworkedted last week around The Zen Leader, a premier coach in Singapore contacted me, wondering how a Zen perspective would address issues he typically hears from clients.  Here was his list:


Topics: zen leader, the zen leader book, Maslow's hierarchy, zen, the zen leader, flips, leadership, zen leadership

Ginny Whitelaw on the Stu Taylor Show

Posted by Anthony Attan

May 4, 2012 10:00:00 AM

Ginny Whitelaw is interviewed on the Stu Taylor radio show (www.stutaylor.com) about her new book, The Zen Leader: 10 Ways to go From Barely Managing to Leading Fearlessly.  Listen to the full interview below.


Topics: zen leader, managing change, the zen leader book, zen, the zen leader, leadership, leadership development, whole leadership development, whole leadership, managing energy, managing stress, zen leadership

Welcome to the Zen Leader Blog

A blog that transforms:

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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