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The Wake Up Call for Lawyers

Mindfulness for the Legal Mind: a 10-minute talk plus 10 minutes of guided meditation. A brief refuge. The musings of a long-time lawyer, law professor, and mindfulness geek on lawyering from a mindful perspective. Tools to cultivate more joy, ease, and wellbeing in this crazy profession. Ideas to become even better at what you do, and save the world. A few minutes of peace every week, which you definitely deserve.


Ethics Are Impossible Where There's No Justice
Do the rules of ethics apply to everyone? Do they apply to everyone in the same way, and to the same degree? Should they? How can we contemplate the perfection of ethical conduct or even generosity, when our bellies or hearts are empty?And what responsibility do those of us have,whose hearts and bellies are full?
20:41 09/22/2022
Ethics for the Greater Good
Is it possible to be a fierce advocate, and at the same time not lie or be unkind, harsh, or derogatory? Not simply because of a set of rules, however compelling, but because of a commitment to the greater good?  What if we could practice a level of ethics that serves that highest possible good, and at the same time not compromise our advocacy or ferocity?
20:10 09/15/2022
Ethics and Character
Without mindfulness, it’s easy to lose my way.I don’t pay attention to my underlying intentions, (or I kid myself that they don’t exist – but who am I kidding?). And then consequences happen and still I proclaim my innocence. With mindfulness, I’ve got a chance. And so does everyone I bump into. I can use mindfulness to slow down and check my intentions before I open my mouth.Or, if I blow by that opportunity, which I definitely do, At least I can take a non-judgmental, courageous, graceful look at the results of my own hidden (from me, until then) intentions. And then re-set, in the direction of kindness. (And also, probably apologize.) The key to doing either, or both? Mindfulness practice (naturally).
20:33 09/08/2022
The "Real" Rules of Ethics
when I first asked my teacher whether it was ok to talk about ethics and mindfulness, he laughed and said, all of mindfulness is ethics! Fair.And, it’s interesting to look at the five biggies, or precepts: not causing harm, not stealing, not misusing sexuality, not communicating unwisely, not using intoxicants to cloud the mind.These can feel like big asks to me anyway, when I take a really close look. And yet aren't the lawyers the standard-bearers? Don’t folks rely on us to lift up the ethics of society?Maybe there’s too much cynicism in the world right now to think about it that way, but it seems to me that fundamentally, the answer is “yes.”And so what about practicing law with these five precepts in mind? Let's dissect, but I do think it has the potential to change our own lives, and maybe even our world. 
20:38 09/01/2022
The Perfection of Ethics for a Life in the Law
Ordinarily, when I think of ethics they either feels legalistic, like the rules of professional conduct, or else I think of the rules I learned in Sunday school. Mindfulness offers an invitation to consider ethics in a different way: not so much as rules but more as a way of life that feels right and has better all-around consequences. For me, the motivation to discover that life is more motivating than the Model Rules or the Ten Commandments. It also feels more optimistic.
20:34 08/25/2022
Courage, Political Action, and Interconnection as Generosity
The last thing I want to say about generosity, for now, is that one of the most important acts of generosity that I know I can take, is to stand up for, and stand beside, anyone and everyone who could use my support. To do this, I know I have to not “other” anyone. Instead, I have to remember that we are not separate. And then, I have to see my very life as a courageous, political act,The act of intentionally, courageously, standing up for, and standing beside. This is not easy for me. I admire you if this is easy for you. I want to do better with the generosity of courage, political action, and interconnection. 
20:09 08/18/2022
The Biggest Ask of All: the Generosity of Just Being Nice
Here’s a radical question:What if we all stopped rushing, stressing, and being so grumpy, And made it a point instead just to be nice to everyone, all the time?What if we offered a kind hello every morning, and a connected goodbye each night?What if, as Pablo Neruda said, we were not so single-minded about keeping our lives moving, and for once could do nothing?Nothing but be nice to each other? Even though we're lawyers?It feels like that could be the most generous thing of all…
20:32 08/11/2022
The Gifts of Recognition, Admiration, and Laughter
Too many times I let the chance go by to recognize someone for who they are,or something they’ve done. Or to appreciate them. Can you relate?I want to be better at that. What if we didn't let any chances go by? What if we recognized everyone, as often as possible,seeing, and saying (if that’s welcome), that we see their amazingness, or their pain?And appreciating them?It feels like our profession, maybe our world, could be better if we tried to do that. And also, helped people laugh, or at least smile: I don’t do that enough, either.Sure, most of our work is too serious to laugh about. But there are moments of levity, aren’t there? What if we highlighted those moments? And on that note, how many lawyer jokes are there? Only three. The rest are true stories.
20:26 08/04/2022
Generosity : Creating a Safer, Braver, World
It seems to me that the most generous thing we can do for one another is to create safer, braver, spaces.I’m not sure exactly how, but what about a formula that looks like letting go of as much greediness as possible, letting go of as much aversiveness as possible, and remembering we belong to one another, even in our very adversarial profession?
20:04 07/29/2022
Generosity of Practice: Maybe We’re All Teachers
All those days you wake up a few minutes early to meditate?All those times you stop, take a breath, decide on an appropriate response, and then act out of love, compassion?I feel like every one of those moments is an offering, a teaching.As we practice – as we sit, as we offer our wisdom and love to our colleagues, our staff, our communities, our friends, our families – we are all, generously, offering the teachings of mindfulness.Doesn't it feel nice to think about practice like that?
20:42 07/21/2022
What We Have to Give
If generosity builds character, then what is true generosity?And can generosity heal some of the harmful elements of the law? Maybe that depends on what we offer. Maybe it depends on how much we offer.Maybe it depends on the practice of generosity, more than the "what" or the "how much."Maybe it's a completely personal inquiry and we just know generosity when we see it.
20:50 07/14/2022
The Optimism of Generosity
Sometimes I think, how is it even appropriate to talk about optimism?Every day there's another shooting, tragedy, political or legal debacle. And yet I feel like we can't give up. Or at least I can't. Maybe you feel the same way. Studying generosity, like studying any wholesome quality of mind, is the opposite of giving up. It's a study in being optimistic. For one thing, it's a study of character-building and that's an optimistic activity: imagine if we could re-form our own character in the most positive direction possible.For another thing, it might make someone's day just a tiny bit better. Imagine if we could do that, all day long. And if we do, then they might just pay it forward. Imagine what could happen with a love like that. It could light up the whole world.
20:38 07/07/2022
Generosity for Ourselves Right Now
In such a difficult moment can generosity help?Not philosophically, but the practice of generosity?Let's start with ourselves and see if it does. It might require some suspension of disbelief.It might require letting go of old, even cherished attitudes. It might mean we have to let in the good and the bad.  But at this point, what do we have to lose?
20:44 06/30/2022
The Impossibility of Perfection
To aspire to the unattainable, and imagine the impossible, in a sense we're making a deal with ourselves. We're agreeing that no matter how dedicated we are to cultivating wholesome qualities of mind and heart, no matter how committed we are to saving the world, or at least our own small corner of the world, in our lifetime we will not succeed. And yet we still do it.We still dedicate ourselves to being generous, ethical, and patient. We still muster as much joy as we can in the endeavor. We still sit, day in and day out, attaining whatever wisdom might arise. We know we will not succeed. We know we cannot succeed.And yet.
20:10 06/23/2022
Re - Imagining the Law
Imagination.It's not the first world that comes to mind when I think of the law. But what if it were?What if we could reimagine ourselves and in doing that, reimagine the law?And what if, in reimagining the law, we could reimagine our world? Maybe our failure to solve the intractable, systemic issues of our times is less about political will and more about a failure of imagination. If it is, what happens when we shift our perspective, aspire to the unattainable, imagine the impossible?And how do we even do that?
21:48 06/16/2022
The Fine Art of Letting Go
I've told this story so often, about how, after I'd stopped practicing law for quite a while, my partner, seeing how frantically I was working, said, "Really? I didn't know you'd given it up."I was one of those lawyers who worked all the time, at all hours, squeezing stuff in late at night, early in the morning, on weekends. And I still do it, teaching mindfulness. Old habits die hard.So I'm exploring turning over a new leaf.I've decided to consider - just consider - the practice of letting go. Of course letting go is one of the main tenets of mindfulness and I've talked about it a lot. But have I done it? I realized recently, not so much.Today let's talk a little about letting go, then practice it.Also, this is Wake Up Call 350. !! It's hard to believe, but that's where we are. And it feels like a good time to take a short break. I'm headed to the UK on Monday, so today will be the last live Wake Up Call until June 16th. I'll miss you! And, I'll see you in just over a month.
20:44 05/05/2022
The Compatibility of Kindness
Is it my imagination or is there a general sense in the law that if we're kind, to ourselves or anyone else, we'll be perceived as weak? Or not just perceived, but that we'll actually be weak?In terms of how we treat ourselves, I hear it from my students in the form of, "I had to be hard on myself to get as far as I have." I hear it from my colleagues, too - the supposed power of anger turned inwards.And I'm all too familiar with it personally, but I'm not longer convinced it's such a good idea.I guess I'm wondering what would happen if we re-envisioned the way we relate to ourselves: less task-mastering, and a whole lot more kindness. Does just reading that seem Pollyannaish Or does it come as a relief, even if you're not quite willing to say?
20:16 04/28/2022
Lighting Up the World, One Lawyer at a Time
Mindful lawyering: it's not complicated but it's also not easy. Because it's not easy to pay attention with intention, to be kind and friendly all the time, to show restraint and not conceit, to be insightful.It is a good aspiration, though - not a better one than becoming skillful at litigation or drafting or negotiating, but a complimentary one: the aspiration to cultivating the intention to pay attention; kindness and friendliness towards even the "other" side; insight.And what could be better for our clients (and the world), than to add that aspiration to the law? What could be better for our own wellbeing as well?
19:45 04/21/2022
Finding Peace in Each Breath
I'm about as American as it gets - 4th generation San Franciscan on one side and on the other, descended from Jews who fled Europe to Canada first, then quietly made their way down into Nebraska with what they could carry, which our family is pretty sure didn't include anything fancy or legal, like immigration papers.I was raised to believe in the pursuit of happiness and that when the going gets tough, the tough get going: those characteristically American endeavors. I see the wisdom in both. I've done both, most of my life.I can also feel the stress in in both - in the constant pursuit, and in being tough and getting going, again and again and again.It's possible that this strategy is not altogether a bad one, especially for lawyers who are ambitious or deeply committed or both. But at the very least it's missing a component: peace. And I'm not convinced peace is available in the pursuit.But I do know it's available right here and now, in teach moment, each breath.
20:02 04/15/2022
Enduring an Attack
When I'm attacked, my impulse is to attack back. I know it's my legal training, and maybe it's also my nature. At the very least it's a lifelong habit.Can you relate, or are you in the "flight" more than "fight" camp?Either way, what if the more effective thing to do is to learn to endure the attack? Not to give anything up or fail to be zealous, but also not to go straight for the jugular, or the exit door, at the first sign of trouble?Training the mind to be less reactive: that's today's topic. See you soon.
15:17 04/07/2022
Taming the Runaway Mind
I have a mind that tends to run away with me. Not in a romantic way like taking a beautiful drive down the coast, but in a way where it spins out of control and suddenly I'm stuck in a skipping record of worry, fear, anger, or something worse.In mindfulness parlance this is a "hell realm." It's a place I know all too well. Maybe you do, too. The antidotes are remembering it's just a runaway mind (the most usual thing in the world), taking responsibility for any harm done (ug - the most uncomfortable thing in the world), and continuing to diligently train the mind (not the easiest thing in the world).Fun times. See you soon.
19:45 03/31/2022
How Much Mindfulness is Enough?
How much mindfulness is enough? Is moment-to-moment attention (the classical definition of secular mindfulness) just a suggestion for when we decide to give it a try?Or does it mean, moment-to-moment attention all day long?I'm not saying we can do it (or I can do it), but I think it might mean "all day long."It's a big aspiration. But then again, it's a feedback loop.
20:06 03/24/2022
G.R.O.U.N.D. Practice and Being a Leader of Peace
It's the middle of the first MLTT 2022 Intensive and another intense moment in the world.It feels like a good time to bring in G.R.O.U.N.D., a practice I began working with last year.Please join me to practice and to contemplate President Zelensky's invitation to be a leader of peace.Maybe he was talking to all of us. I hope so.
20:24 03/17/2022
Whacking Someone On the Head, in a Mindful Way
If you were heading down the street and someone tried to mug you, what would you do?Maybe instinct would kick in and you'd run, or turn and try to fight them off.Maybe you'd have an instantaneous mindfulness check-in and think, "non-harming, non-harming" - I shouldn't go after them.Maybe - just maybe - you'd whack them over the head with your umbrella. From a mindful lawyering perspective, is there a time and a place for that, too?
20:23 03/10/2022
Are We Starting to Get It?
The world seems to be coming together around Ukraine. It did that to manufacture a Covid vaccine as well. What if it's a trend?Don't be silly, right? There's not enough mindfulness in the world just yet, is there? There's not enough insight. Not enough of us vowing to save all beings, to take the biggest, most compassionate approach. Is there?I'm not saying we're seeing a sea change, or even that we'll see one in my lifetime, or yours. But I am starting to wonder if we're at least trending in the right direction. And if maybe, just maybe, the (mindful) lawyers are helping...
20:04 03/03/2022
Cutting Off the Head of the Snake
I used to think if I sat on my meditation cushion, did some yoga, and generally paid attention, I was doing my part. That still feels important. But now, for me anyway, it also feels like it's not enough.The ancient texts say we should practice as if our hair is on fire or there's a snake in our lap. And I guess that's what feels important for me these days: to remember my hair is on fire - or at least the planet is on fire, and that there really is a snake in my lap - the snake of hatred and separateness.It's got me interested in the Eightfold Path of mindfulness from a new, maybe bigger, maybe more urgent perspective. It's got me asking what it could look like to walk that Path like a firefighter doing what I can to quench the flames, or like some kind of fearless human (which I'm not!), willing to tame the snake or, if that's not possible, cut off its head.
20:17 02/24/2022
The Perils of "Being" a Lawyer
This question of identity: what does it mean to "be" a lawyer? Is it something to earn, like a degree? Or something to pass into, or be sworn into, after taking the bar?And what does it mean to "be" a mindfulness practitioner? Is there some right of passage?Some number of hours of silence to cultivate, or endure? Some tap on the shoulder by elders, or teachers?Or are these not identities at all, but aspirations? And if so, what sustainable forces can we bring to the moment to moment practice of law, and of mindfulness, so that someday we can feel we have truly earned the sacred title of lawyer, and mindfulness practitioner?So many questions! And not many answers. But maybe some ideas...
19:34 02/17/2022
Preventing Corruption, and Other Advantages of Mindfulness
Corruption is one of those scary words to me because it conjures intentional dishonesty for personal gain, which goes into the category of never, ever, ever.At the same time, practicing law can be so intense that it can feel corrosive in & of itself.Which started me wondering if practicing law is, in some way, corrupting us. And maybe not in such a small way. And that got me wondering whether mindfulness practice could be an antidote.Now I'm thinking yes, but see what you think.
15:22 02/11/2022
Dancing With Fear, and Other Paradoxes
My habitual reaction to qualities of heart and mind I don't like, like anger, fear, and wickedness, is to try to fix them. I suppose that can be a good thing.Another good thing can be to meet them with kindness and goodness, in a kind of dance of opposites. But what is the use of taking the hand of fear, or letting the liar whisper sweet nothings in your ear?Maybe it's a paradox that works. 
19:45 02/03/2022
The next Buddha will be our community
Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh died last Friday, at the age of 95, in the temple in Vietnam where he first became a monk at the age of 16. In a long, mindful life, Thay, as his students lovingly called him, touched the hearts and minds of millions.Thay also changed the mindfulness conversation to one that focused on justice and peace for all. He believed - and lived into the belief - that engagement in the world, and healing the world, were the truest callings of all serious mindfulness practitioners.Thay left us with many powerful teachings. In my favorite, he asserted that in the vast, possibly imaginal, lineage and continuum of buddhas - those ordinary humans who achieve perfect enlightenment and a lineage stretching back thousands of years and forward just as many more, the next Buddha would not be one human being at all.According to Thich Nhat Hanh, the next Buddha will be the "sangha": that growing, worldwide community of mindfulness practitioners of which all of us are a part.Now we just need to prove Thay correct. And there's never been a better, more urgent, moment to do that. Let's see what that conversation, and work, look like.
20:07 01/27/2022