“Meditation” and “mindfulness” are terms that have now firmly entered the corporate vernacular. You can hardly pick up a magazine or business journal without seeing an article about how meditation can dramatically benefit one’s career. The list of highly productive leaders in the corporate world who have regular meditation practices continues to grow—Mark Bertolini, CEO of Aetna, Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, Rick Rubin, former present of Columbia Records, Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates, Ramani Ayer, former Chairman and CEO of Hartford Financial Services Group. The list goes on and on. Today there is a willingness in the corporate world to embrace something that only a few years ago was considered, as Dan Harris puts it, “the exclusive province of bearded swamis, unwashed hippies and fans of John Tesh music.”
Corporate culture’s willingness to embrace meditation has been fueled not only by the the lived experience of corporate leaders, but also by the mountain of research that demonstrates how meditation literally alters the physical structure of the brain. Research shows that a regular meditation practice improves physical health, mental focus, and reduces stress. More importantly, those with regular meditation practices tell us that meditation helps us change the way we see ourselves and how we connect to those around us.
Yet, for some reason, very few lawyers practice meditation. You would think that a profession that leads all others in stress and anxiety related disorders would be among the first to explore mindfulness practices and the ways in which those practices enable us to not only survive, but thrive in this very intense and stressful profession. But we are apparently among the last. Maybe it’s our overly pessimistic natures. Or maybe, while we rationally understand the benefits of meditation, we have no idea where to begin.
Recently I hosted a wellness luncheon for attorneys and other legal professionals. Our guest speaker was a local judge who talked about her personal meditation practice and how that practice enabled her to function as a better judge and a better human being. After the presentation, I was pleased to hear how many lawyers were genuinely interested in trying to start a meditation practice. (It’s funny how when lawyers hear a judge talk about meditation, it no longer sounds quite so new-age-y). However, they had no idea where to begin.
The good news is that there is an excellent new meditation and mindfulness guide for lawyers— Jeena Cho’s new book, The Anxious Lawyer, published just last week. It’s basically an 8 week guide for lawyers on how to begin practicing meditation and a discussion of the ways in which a regular meditation practice can result in a more joyful life and a more satisfying law practice.
One of the great things about Jeena’s book is the way she addresses the question we pessimistic lawyers most frequently ask—how it is that merely sitting still and breathing can transform how we look at our life and work? Jeena’s book is a great resource for those of us who have put off learning how to meditate because we’re not sure how to do it “correctly.” In clear, thoughtful language she discusses the frustration that lawyers feel in not being able to quiet their mind, as well as concerns many have about meditation being too new-age-y or too spiritual.
I was speaking with Jeena a few weeks ago on the phone. She is a practicing attorney in San Francisco, and she said she hopes her book can open a door for lawyers to explore this transformative practice. I told her I hoped she would venture into the deep south on her book tour, because we could use her wisdom and guidance. Maybe we’ll get lucky and have her visit our part of the country sometime soon.
If you’re new to meditation, pick up a copy of Jeena’s book. It’s an excellent way to get started. If you already have a meditation practice, pick up a copy of Jeena’s book anyway. It’s a helpful guide for talking to people about meditation—particularly people like lawyers, who live in their heads and are perpetually suspicious of anything that sounds too touchy-feely.