If anxiety is, or is becoming your constant companion, it’s time to make it your friend as well.
You’re probably thinking “why on earth would I befriend my anxiety? I want it to go away.” I get this feeling. But hear me out. Anxiety is something that lives inside of you. It’s an internal reaction to some actual or imagined external threat or situation.
The word anxiety comes from the Latin word “angere.” It means choke, distress or trouble. This physiological reaction is part of the body’s natural fight-or-flight response and it’s there to protect you!
Frequently, when we experience anxiety, our first reaction is to ignore, dismiss, or deny it. This, it turns out, only makes the anxiety worse. If, on the other hand, we try to learn more about it, to find out what makes it tick, we come a step closer to robbing it of its power over us.
If attendance at last weekend’s "Who and What is the Mindful Lawyer?" workshop at the CBA-CLC is any indication, the mindful lawyer comes from all generations and lived experiences, and from all practice areas. The mindful lawyer is, foremost, a lawyer who is curious about their relationship with their thoughts. Their exploration is into whether tuning into their thoughts can make them more focused and present in their working lives. And most importantly, the mindful lawyer is brave and ready to open their heart.
The packed room of 60 lawyers at the workshop was proof of that. During our 90 minutes together, these lawyers introduced themselves, put their phones away, and decided to be consciously present. They stood up together for a few minutes of moving meditation, or Qi Gong, as led by my co-facilitator Charlie Halpern. They sat quietly for a guided meditation, in which I invited them to observe their breaths and thoughts. They listened quietly and with respect as my co-facilitator Ruth Williams described how meditation healed her heart after great sorrow, and how meditation enables her to be a warrior for her clients in her refugee law practice. They asked honest questions, ranging from whether meditation could be done lying down (it can, although try to stay awake!), to whether you need to be religious to meditate (you do not). And they shared courageously, in three words, what they felt at the conclusion of the session: Compassion. Empathy. Intrigued. Grateful. Calm. Relaxed. Curious. Grateful. Hopeful. Community. Encouraged.
Being a mindful lawyer is about cultivating these qualities in yourself, and bringing them to others. What I value most about my own mindfulness practice, which I developed concurrent to working as a bankruptcy lawyer in San Francisco, is that it allows me to see the common humanity in others. And what these 60 lawyers did, in attending our workshop, was acknowledge and respect the humanity in themselves, and in the others seated around them.
Photo: Jeena Cho