Meditation in the Practice of Law

I have been reminded recently of the importance of slowing down. From the beginning of my recovery journey, slowing down has been a goal of mine, not that I succeed 100% or even 60% of the time. I was lucky enough to start my recovery journey after law school, but before I actually began the practice of law. Though I was free of a substance abuse problem, I still carried the source of my problems with me wherever I went. Chief amongst my character defects was, and is, impatience and perfectionism. Once I took away my numbing tools, I had to look these and other defects squarely in the face.

What these defects look like in my life, if left unchecked, is the inability to calmly look at a large pile of to-do’s and slowly and methodically attack them one by one. My first instinct is to catastrophize the work. “I will never get this done in time,” “there are too many cases to ever get done,” “I will die right here in this office.” After racing to get through the pile of work and making preventable mistakes, I realize I made mistakes and take longer going back and fixing what my rush has caused. To top it off I beat myself up for making the mistakes, and then anxiety really takes hold. “Why did I become a lawyer?” “Can I quit right now and make cupcakes for Whole Foods?" "Does Whole Foods offer dental insurance?” And so, I fall into the rabbit hole. In the beginning, I was so uncomfortable with my own frantic thoughts that I constantly listened to podcasts and books on tape. I was terrified at the prospect of having uninterrupted time with my own brain.

Because I have an amazing program of recovery in my life now, I have tools to combat these defects. Meditation is one of the tools that was suggested to me early in my recovery. For a mind constantly racing, it was an arduous task starting out. I have been practicing consistently, but not perfectly, for the last seven plus years, and it has made a world of difference in the way I practice law.

Every morning I attempt to spend 10 to 20 minutes reading daily meditations, usually recovery based. I then sit with my eyes closed and breathe in and out. There are thousands of ways to meditate, but for me the most effective is to simply breathe in for six counts and breathe out for six counts. In those 12-second increments I can strengthen my relationship with a higher power and physically lower my heart rate. There is something about practicing this short meditation in the morning that helps remind me throughout the day to pause. When I am able to pause and breathe, amazing things can happen. I can prevent the quick-witted reply email to a particularly aggressive opposing counsel, I can catch a typo before I submit a pleading, and I can remember that the person on the other end of the phone is looking for understanding, not a lecture. Just as recovery has been a process, so has my experience with meditation. Some days I am unable to focus and it seems impossible to push the grocery list and dreaded work tasks out of my consciousness, but if I keep trying—accepting my attempts as the best I can do right now—I still get the enhanced peace and serenity. I can say to myself, “In this moment right now, everything is ok.”

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