In my book, The Beauty of Different, I talk about a difficult time in my life -- a 12-month period that included getting divorced, studying for the bar exam (which, trust me, is its own concentric circles of hell) and being laid off from my very first law job. I managed to get through it all, in part by creating a focused and concentrated gratitude practice: intentionally taking the time to notice, reflect and be thankful for the good in my life, even amongst all the bad.
My gratitude practice at the time led me to read tons of books on the concept of mindfulness and living in the present, including the concept of nonjudgment -- the ability to perceive things as they are, without ascribing a positive or negative value to them. The theory, as I understood it, is that by cultivating this level of detachment, you are able to achieve a certain level of personal peace and calm.
The more I studied this, the more uneasy I became. You see my struggle, right? Here I was, a young lawyer, just starting out in a profession that on its face, was completely counter to the tenets of peace, mindfulness and non-judgment. Let's be real: law is rife with conflict. With judgment. Surely finding calm and practicing non-judgment while practicing law is a virtual impossibility?
Well, you can imagine my delight yesterday when I discovered that there is a movement afoot: the concept of mindful lawyering. This concept is considered so important to the practice of law that the University of California at Berkeley actually has curricula in its law school dedicated to this, led by the Berkeley Initiative for Mindfulness in Law, created to explore how meditation and reflectiveness can affect the legal practice. In their words:
We are working to build a vibrant community in which students, faculty and staff can integrate the insights of meditation into their work and studies in order to foster a more just, compassionate and reflective legal system.
Kind of awesome, right? And note that while their advisory council includes a few members who practice Buddhist tradition, the mission of the initiative does not invoke any sort of religious imperative. Regardless, just the fact that an initiative like this exists encourages me: I love the possibility that we can transform the legal system -- or at least, our personal legal practices -- by individual methods of introspection and reflection. Buddhist meditation is certainly one method of reflection, but I suspect that many other practices work just as well. In my case, I'm not someone who meditates with any sort of regularity (the phrase "seldom to never" comes to mind), but I've continued my gratitude practice from decades ago; furthermore, I'm an avid journaler, and have been for years. And lately, I'm finding that my practice of introspection through journaling is leading me back to the profession of law in a far more rewarding way than I could've ever imagined back when I was just beginning my law career.
I think there's something to this. And I'm interested in learning more.
So, I'd love to hear your thoughts: are you an attorney who has an avid mindfulness practice? Or do you have a different type of introspection practice to which you strictly adhere? Has it enhanced your work?
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For what it's worth, here are some other sources on the concept of mindful lawyering that I found while clicking around:
- The Six-Minute Solution: A Mindfulness Primer for Lawyers, by Scott L. Rogers
- The Affective Assistance of Counsel: Practicing Law as a Healing Profession, by Marjorie Ann Silver (I actually bought this one -- I'll let you know what I think once I've read it. Because i'm dying to learn more about how you can detach in law, and still remain fully engaged. That, right there, might be the secret to life.)
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