4 Questions for Zen Master Ginny Whitelaw about her mind-blowing new book, Resonate
Q: Why this book, Resonate, and why now?
It was inspired by Gordon Greene Roshi’s plea to “change how change happens” with respect to our glacially slow response to climate change. Instantly I thought:
“Change always happens through resonance; we have to change the conditions for resonance.”
And that got me cooking, because I understand resonance, both as a scientist and as a Zen teacher. I could imagine putting those perspectives and practices together to help people to make a difference, with resilience and joy; to help them gain traction on seemingly intractable problems such as climate change, social equity, and technological dislocation.
This is an urgent time. We need a critical mass of people who can face into these challenges with wisdom and connectedness and Resonate shows the Way to do that.
Q: We don’t often hear “NASA scientist” and “Zen Master” in the same bio. What were the major twists and turns in your life that took you from one to the other?
I guess you could say a common theme was a passionate interest in energy and getting to the bottom of things.
I wanted to be an astronaut as a kid, which led me into physics. Walking down the hallway of the physics building as a college freshman, I saw a department sign reading “high energy physics.” I had no idea what that mean, but I wanted it, and proceeded to work in a high energy physics lab for the next 4 years.
In graduate school I wanted to understand the energy of the human being, so I went into biophysics. I had also started training in martial arts by this time, eventually finding Aikido — which literally translates as the Way of harmonizing energy — so there energy showed up again.
My Aikido teacher also trained in Zen and was clear that if I wanted to reach the peak of my game, I had to train in Zen, too. His Zen teacher, Tanouye Roshi, was the most penetrating and accomplished human being I’d ever met, with a gift for working with energy.
I messed around in my Zen training for about 10 years because by this time I was now working at NASA, still hellbent on becoming an astronaut. But thankfully, everything fell apart at some point, and what arose in its ashes was my authentic life.
Q: Change-makers have a keen sense that the way we plan for the future isn’t cutting it; they are aching for a better way. If you were sitting across from a reader what would you say to them, her, or him?
You’re right. We’re not planning for the future from a place of feeling connected. We’re not caring for our communities from a place of feeling connected. We’re not always feeling connected and whole in our own mind and body. And there is a better way, which is to accord the Way, resonating one-with what is going on, and making our difference in a natural, sustainable way.
But here’s the deal: it takes practice. To resonate one-with what is going on and add our particular gifts, we have to be sensitive and responsive, and to do either of those things well takes re-conditioning of our body and mind. But if we’re sincere about finding a better way, there are proven technologies for doing so, and Resonate shares them.
Q: You just mentioned that people feel disconnected. Last fall I completed Otto Scharmer’s uLab. His first lecture is about how we are cut off from nature, cut off from others, and cut off from ourselves. Can you speak to this?
We often face a challenge in secular work-life whenever talk turns to something that sounds spiritual. We feel we have to keep all that stuff separate — separation of church and state and religious freedom and so on.
But the truth is, we won’t find satisfactory solutions to the challenges we face if we start from a view of the human being that is purely separate and material — a la 19th century science.
Survival of the fittest is part of our nature, but it is not our greatest truth, and we will never be well served by policies and planning that focus on our separateness.
We are also connected, energetic, spiritual beings. And when people experience that connection and operate from that bigness, a greater wisdom emerges.
We get nervous when things go beyond our rational, conventional comprehension, but that’s been the truth of our science since Einstein.
Relativity theory is spiritual. Quantum physics is spiritual. A universe of 10 dimensions in which we comprehend only 3 is spiritual.
It’s time to revisit our squeamishness about owning our spiritual nature. We are much bigger than we conventionally think we are. Great wisdom and possibility emerges from that bigness, and Resonate goes there.
Ginny Whitelaw, author of The Zen Leader, is working on a new book, Resonate, that people are calling “groundbreaking” and “mind-blowing”. Through Aug. 31, you can pre-order Resonate on publishizer, which will be pivotal in it finding a good publishing home. Learn more and pre-order here. You’ll be helping yourself and others find a book that changes lives.