Monday, January 28, 2019
Back in November, my sister invited me to join her for the second time for a three-day break at Miraval, a resort in Tucson, Arizona. I accepted her invitation with the understanding that I needed to recharge a bit after a rough 2018. A visit to Miraval, I thought, would be a great way to do that and jumpstart my research this spring. I signed on. Then, my sister had to back out on the trip late-in-the-game for professional reasons. My dilemma: to cancel/reschedule the trip . . . or just go by myself? I decided to go anyway.
Miraval's distinctive claim to fame as a resort is mindfulness. Among other things, it promotes "Life in Balance." Mindfulness has been a hot topic for the legal profession, law schools (see, e.g., the University of Miami's Mindfulness in Law Program), and the American Bar Association (the "ABA") in recent years. Among other things, mindfulness may help attorneys process difficult situations in a healthier manner, acting as an antidote (in some circumstances) for lawyer mental health issues I wrote about a few weeks ago. (See also Marcia Narine Weldon's follow-on post.) Berkeley Law has published a helpful reading list here.
In an excerpt from an article originally published in the ABA's Litigation magazine, Jan L. Jacobowitz writes:
When attorneys practice mindfulness, the experience they gain by noticing their minds moving off into distraction, and returning their attention to their breath, makes them better equipped to deal with the unexpected—because they catch the thoughts and feelings that are resisting the moment, and are better equipped to stay on task and respond in proportion to the challenge. For the same reasons, they enhance their capacity to be more genuine and present for what arises in their interactions with their clients, their colleagues, witnesses, and adversaries. They are better able to focus on and enjoy their work.
In that same excerpt, Jacobowitz describes mindfulness.
Mindfulness is an awareness of life in the present moment: Simple to state, but not necessarily so easy to accomplish. Our minds are often cluttered with ruminations about the past and concerns about the future. We are so busy living in the past or projecting onto the future that often we are not acutely attuned to what is happening in the present moment. The clutter inhibits clarity of thought and increases stress and anxiety.
Mindfulness creates the opportunity to pause, breathe, and connect with one’s inner thoughts, feelings, and emotions; in other words, to become aware of how we are reacting in a given situation and to provide ourselves with the opportunity to moderate our reaction and respond thoughtfully.
Hmm. Too "woo-woo" for you? Join the many lawyers who feel that way. (Jacobowitz refers to lawyers in this connection as "by nature are a skeptical group.") I once was one of those skeptics.
But I am now among the converted, having begin to practice mindfulness in a number of its manifestations. I am especially fond of mindfulness though movement, especially through yoga asana and pranayama practices.
With that in mind, as I rejuvenate myself, I am gathering intelligence to take with me. I plan to bring elements of Miraval's mindfulness/life in balance ethos back to my yoga teaching at The University of Tennessee College of Law. (I started teaching a regular class to faculty, staff, and students last Friday morning. I will have more to say on that yoga teaching experience in later posts.) After just a half day at Miraval, I already have information and ideas . . . . Wish me luck in this endeavor! And offer tips if you have any.