I will attempt to answer ‘what is Zen?’

It’s both something we are—our true nature expressing itself moment by moment—and something we do—a disciplined practice through which we can realize the joy of being. It is not a belief system to which one converts. There is no dogma or doctrine. Zen is the direct experience of what we might call ultimate reality, or the absolute, yet it is not separate from the ordinary, the relative.

This direct experience is our birthright. The practice of zazen—meditation—is a way of realizing the vibrant, subtle, and interconnected nature of all life.  It was this path toward realization that was shown some 2,500 years ago by Buddha. “Buddha” simply means “awakened one.”  His great teaching was that we can all awaken; that fundamentally, we are all buddhas— Jewish buddhas, Christian buddhas, Hindu buddhas, Islamic buddhas, Ashanti buddhas, Haudenasaunee buddhas, secular buddhas.

With this flexible and accommodating attitude toward the various cultures and beliefs it encountered, Buddhism was embraced throughout Asia. In China, it merged with Taoism and evolved into Ch’an, the Chinese word for meditation, which became “Zen” in Japan. Over the past few decades, it has become very much a part of Western culture. Indeed, the historian Arnold Toynbee said that one of the most significant events of the twentieth century was the movement of Buddhism from East to West.

Through a dedicated and consistent meditation practice, we can realize that self and other are One, that the conditioned and unconditioned are simultaneous, that absolute and relative are identical. Out of this realization flows a natural compassion and wisdom, a peaceful and intuitively appropriate response toward whatever circumstances may arise. We don’t make a big deal about it; we don’t even call it religion.

When the Dalai Lama was asked about Buddhism, he simply said, “My religion is kindness.”

So… you may ask again, “what is Zen?”

Stop now. Stop trying to get an intellectual lock on something that is vast and boundless, far more than the rational mind can grasp. Just breathe in with full awareness. Taste the breath. Appreciate it fully. Now breathe out, slowly, with equal appreciation. Give it all away; hold onto nothing. Breathe in with gratitude; breathe out with love. Receiving and offering—this is what we are doing each time we inhale and exhale. To do so with conscious awareness, on a regular basis, is the transformative practice is called Zen.

This simple yet profound practice can release us from the shackles of past and future, as well as from the self-imposed and imprisoning barriers we erect around what we erroneously consider our separate and unchanging identities.

Why do I use Zen in coaching?

Over the past decade of providing training and coaching leaders, I have witnessed an acute need for a new approach to leadership and to include those who support the leader and themselves.

Too often, leaders experience burn-out, a sense of isolation, and loss of meaning in their work and lives. Now more than ever, there is a critical need for deeper connections with clients, team members, and loved ones in this time of pandemic. To address this growing need, I have developed a new leadership coaching program, an innovative system for leaders, manager, and coaches who want to transform their role as a leader and to help change today’s culture of leadership.

At the core of Zen coaching are the practices of leadership, strategy, ethics, meditation, and mindfulness which are vital and relevant today. My leadership coaching is structured and practical. It’s designed to help you create powerful and permanent change that’s effective and sustainable. It works because it enables you make clear decisions and take confident action that’s aligned with your personality type, your strengths, your values, your purpose and passion, Geoffrey.


Author | Certified Coach | Corporate Trainer | Speaker

Geoffrey has coached CEO’s, leaders, architects, engineers, public speakers and entrepreneurs: Here is a small collection of success stories from the different areas of Geoffrey’s background as a coach. Geoffrey has over 25 years coaching experience. He has led teams for 2010 Winter Olympic Bid, CN Financial Division, Shaw, Rocky Mountaineer, Sandwell Engineering, FKP Architects, Telus and Stantec. Geoffrey taught at the Sauder School of Business, Executive Education, at the University of British Columbia.