Most lawyers have experienced the distress of adding another task to an already heaping plate of professional commitments, of struggling to concentrate while meeting with a client, or of exhaustion at the edge of burnout. However, anyone can take easy and simple steps toward protecting his or her own mental health and well-being. Meditation, or the “variety of practices that focus on mind and body integration and are used to calm the mind and enhance overall well-being”, can help to reconnect to a feeling of stability and awareness.
Meditation and other mindfulness techniques are known to extend sundry benefits to practitioners, chief among them being an increased sense of awareness and a deeper connection to the present moment. Unhealthy stress can often cause an attorney to neglect professional responsibilities and can even develop a pattern of behavior that may lead to disciplinary action. Why should legal professionals consider meditation as a part of the workday?
- Promote sound judgement and attention to detail
- Lower levels of stress and anxiety and improves heart health
- Build greater emotional resistance
- Enhance interpersonal skills, including better active listening
- Encourage more productive sleep
So, then – what are some basic meditative approaches for beginners of mindfulness practice?
- Like other forms of meditation, sitting meditation brings the practitioner’s attention to his or her breath.
- Perform a mental scan of your body’s sensations. This technique begins by focusing attention to the top of your head. Then, slowly move your attention down your body to your toes. Acknowledge sensations felt at each point of your body.
- Beginners and those more experienced alike may enjoy the instruction of guided meditation. Numerous smartphone apps, podcasts, streaming series, and websites offer the comfort of this type of structure. The New York Times recently published a series of one-, four-, ten-, and fifteen-minute guided sessions.
What are tips for cultivating your own consistent practice?
- Before practicing a new meditation technique, it is helpful to review postures conducive to your plan for practice. While a cross-legged or kneeling position may appeal to those working from home, a chair position likely will be a favorite for those needing brief respite in an office or other public setting.
- Setting aside time for meditation, whether it be two minutes or twenty, may require some thoughtful planning but can ultimately foster a more efficient use of time when performing other tasks.
- Relax any bodily tension. The jaw, shoulders, and hands are common stress-holders.
- Keep in mind that the mind may roam and that thoughts will likely come and go. Avoid making any judgement about these thoughts and allow them to pass.
- Start with short, manageable meditations. Anywhere from three to five minutes may be most satisfying to beginners. As you feel more comfortable with your practice, increase meditation sessions over time.
Meditation offers busy legal professionals the opportunity to take a break from the noise of a demanding workload. By consciously “resetting” the mind, meditation can benefit both one’s law practice and personal well-being.
For more mindfulness exercises, see the Disciplinary Board’s January 2023 article “Using Grounding Techniques to Combat Stress and Anxiety”.