As I write this, it is after midnight on Thursday and in about eight hours I am driving to a meditation retreat center in Santa Cruz where I will spend seven full days in complete silence. The first silent meditation I participated in was in Spirit Rock and was a retreat specially for lawyers. During the retreat, more than 50 lawyers from across the country gathered to practice contemplation, meditation, and silence for four days. Yes, there is something ironic and amusing about a silent lawyer meditation retreat. As my non-attorney friend rightly pointed out, having a room full of silent shifts is rare.
Often times, when I tell lawyers that I’ll be quiet for a week, they look appalled and shocked.
You mean you can’t talk At all? Yes. That’s what silence means.
Can you use body language to communicate? No.
Can you take notes? Yes, but only for the teacher and only for a very important topic or concern.
Sometimes my friends of lawyers try to find loopholes related to this rule and I enjoy some of the creative suggestions.
The typical day at the retreat looks something like this: you wake up at 4:30 a.m. and then sit at 5:00 a.m. for your first meditation of the day and listen, except when you are eating a meal in a lecture (usually one hour per evening) or meditate in an interview with a teacher. The last meditation usually takes place around 9:00 p.m., which means you will likely be meditating for about eight hours a day.
You will be prevented from reading (and some retreat centers follow this rule more strictly than others) and sometimes even write.
Every time I prepare for one of these retreats, I notice a feeling of fear and joy.
You may be wondering why ??? Why would anyone want to do this ??? I think the reasons for this retreat vary from person to person. I’ve met people who are simply trying to solve some complicated problems such as changing jobs, others grieving over the loss of a child or other loved one, and some who want to deepen their meditation practice, to name a few .
I am participating in this retreat because it is an opportunity to really rest, recharge, refocus, and regroup so that I can be the absolute best lawyer, mindfulness mediator, woman, teacher, writer, and human being.
We live in a world that is interconnected, always “on” and expected to be available around the clock. This is a lot of stress on your nervous system. What I have noticed is that if I can really disconnect from all the digital devices, the chatter, the noise in the world, I can slow down, listen, pay attention and think more carefully about where I am and where I am going.
It is often difficult to sit with all of your inner demons, your own thoughts, and all that inner chatter, hour after hour, day after day. But over time, I can find these noises calm down, and I find those few moments of true spiritual stillness to be invaluable.
Now, when I say that you should also attend a silent meditation retreat, I am not suggesting that you do a week-long retreat. However, some people do perennial retreats as well. Start incorporating a bit of silent meditation time into your daily life. When you feel ready, try going for a one-hour meditation in a local group, or even work up to a four-hour “mini” retreat.
Most eight-week meditation courses include a full-day retreat. There are also many non-residential retreats.
In my last post, I spoke about Paul Minda, Ph.D., of the Department of Psychology and the University of Western Ontario’s Brain and Mind Institute, who will examine the relationship between mindfulness meditation practices and how they affect lawyers.
I will be the first to admit the importance of putting mindfulness through a rigorous scientific test. But the best way to see if mindfulness “works” is to See for yourself. Take a little time (say two minutes a day) and meditate for 21 days. Research has shown that even this little exercise can help increase your feelings of happiness.
I am delighted that the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL) has given me and my co-author Karen Gifford the opportunity to lead an eight-week online mindfulness program starting September 7th. It’s free and open to everyone – both women and men, NAWL and non-NAWL members. Seyfarth Shaw LLP is sponsoring the event and I am incredibly encouraged to see the interest and focus on employee wellbeing, especially in BigLaw.
Whether it’s our eight week program or another mindfulness program, I hope you try the mindfulness practice! And let me know what impact this has had on your life.
As always, you can reach me at email@example.com or on Twitter @jeena_cho.
Jeena Cho is the author of The Anxious Lawyer: An 8 Week Guide to a Joyful and Satisfying Legal Practice Through Mindfulness and Meditation (affiliate link). She is a contributor to Forbes and Bloomberg, where she addresses diversity / inclusion, resilience, work and life integration, and wellness in the workplace. She speaks regularly and offers training on women’s issues, diversity, wellness, stress management, mindfulness and meditation. You can reach her on Twitter at firstname.lastname@example.org or @jeena_cho.