The topic of mindfulness is near and dear to me. Last year, I was in a bit of a funk when I was fortunate enough to stumble on Dan Harris’s podcast. Some of you may know Dan as the 10% Happier guy. Dan had a man named George Mumford on his podcast. I really liked the way George talked about this thing called mindfulness, so I decided to download is audio book, “The Mindful Athlete,” and my journey began.
Mindfulness has a lot of definitions, but perhaps the best is from one of the first people to bring the practice of mindfulness from India to the western world, Jon Kabat-Zinn. He says that “mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.” You might also say that it’s the practice of removing yourself, at least momentarily, from the narrative going on inside your head. By noticing your surroundings and the thoughts in your head, you become more present. In time, the practice provides a way to get to know and understand yourself better.
What does that have to do with the law? As lawyers, we tend to get wrapped up in results. I want nothing but good things to happen for my clients, and dammit I’m going to move heaven and earth to create good results. This creates a lot of anxiety, because you think a lot about things that might happen, especially the bad things. Constant anxiety about things that might not even happen is no way to live life.
The practice of mindfulness allows me to notice when I am dwelling on outcomes instead of being present. The world happens in the present, and that’s where I want to be. The mindful lawyer understands that things will happen (or nor happen) in the future no matter what. By being present, the mindful lawyer can take confident action knowing that he or she has the necessary skills to expertly guide clients through challenging episode of life. There is no need to be anxious or fearful of outcomes that are out of our control.
Don’t get me wrong, I am always worried about you guys. I just have a better sense of when I’m letting it get out of hand. Mindfulness makes me a better, more complete person; and therefore, a better and more complete lawyer.
I will wrap this post up with some resources that I use or have heard positive things about with respect to the practice of mindfulness. My personal practice is to meditate in the morning with an app called “Lucid.” It is geared toward athletes, and I fancy myself a very amateur athlete. It speaks to the neanderthal part of me. In the evening I sit for 20 minutes of awareness of breath meditation. There’s nothing magic about meditation, and you can’t do it wrong. If you aren’t ready for 20 minutes, start with 1 and go from there.
I have also heard good things about an app called “headspace.” Once in awhile, I like a guided meditation. YouTube is great for that, because it is free. Check out The Honest Guys, Jason Stephenson or Michael Seeley’s channels. Or you can just go on YouTube and search “guided meditation.” Pick something that looks interesting and give it a go!
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