Jeanine Cogan
Executive coach

Jeanine Cogan

Heads Cogan Coaching and is on the faculty of the Center for Continuing and Professional Education at Georgetown University.

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The new frontier

Q: Dorothy Height, the longtime leader of the National Council of Negro Women, died recently at age 98, prompting President Obama to honor her as "the only woman at the highest level of the civil rights movement." Do leaders of equal standing and notoriety exist today in any social movements? If so, who are the most successful? Has there been a change in the ways in which people seek social change?

As we celebrate the long juicy life of "Miss Dorothy" and honor her for how much influence and impact she had in her nearly 100 years, it is worth reflecting upon other powerful leaders of our time.

Two who immediately jump to mind are the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh. Both are spiritual leaders who see beyond what most of us see as possible and live their lives and teach their students from a place of deep peace and inner freedom.

I remember being at one of Dalai Lama's talks, and he was asked if he held anger towards the Chinese government for the genocide they waged against the Tibetan people -- his people. He responded by saying something like: "No, they already took everything we had. I won't let them take my mind too."

Imagine what is possible for those who can practice this way of being. With his infectious laughter and light spirit, he inspires millions of people around the globe to uncover the roots to happiness and commit to live life with that as the priority.

Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk who left Vietnam in the late 1960s to promote peace in his native country, does the same. Though he was in exile for 40 years as the Vietnamese government was suspicious of his peace activities and would not let him return, he never vilified them.

Instead he teaches the importance of compassion and how understanding is a necessary ingredient for true love. He emphasizes mindfulness -- which means being fully present in this moment -- as the key to happiness. I've been attending his retreats for 14 years and I now have a stillness inside that is like the trunk of a tree -- solid and unwavering.

This is something that feels quite revolutionary to me. Imagine the social change that could occur if hundreds, thousands, even millions of us experienced more inner freedom.

By Jeanine Cogan  |  May 6, 2010; 12:00 AM ET  | Category:  Making change Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Inner freedom coupled with insight and integrity can lead to social innovations. The depth of vision you associate with both the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Han reminds of two lines from Robert Frost that sit on the corner of my computer monitor: We dance round in a ring and suppose, but the Secret sits in the middle and knows.

Posted by: RTnHNL | May 10, 2010 1:35 PM
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