You're Out of Order

I decided to become a lawyer when my high school guidance counselor told me I could not.

Mrs. Stevens offered up three alternative career paths for me: nurse, teacher, or secretary. I looked her steadily in the eye and told her I thought I’d like to become a lawyer. “That is not possible for you,” she told me. She thought by telling me something was impossible, it thus made it so.

Mrs. Stevens was trying to cling to the world as she understood it. She was trying to stop the world from changing. 

I went to law school not only because I enjoyed a contrary personality, but because I had a desire to be an agent of change. That happened to be true for most of the people I met in law school. When my guidance counselor limited me in her limited way, I busted out. A paltry act of teenage defiance perhaps, but I desired to change the world for every high school girl everywhere.

And as much as I loved the idea of bringing about cataclysmic changes in the world when I started law school, some decades later I have come to have a much more negative relationship with change as I am battered around by the world. The good news is that I have lived a good long time now. The bad news is that along with the privileges and miracles, I have experienced catastrophes. If you’re privileged enough to be alive, you have likely to have muddled your way through brushes with disease, death, and the IRS, you too have some different views on the prospect of a changing world than you once had as a youth. 

The simple act of sitting in stillness allows me to embrace all those things I have not anticipated. It wears down my resistance to the new and unexpected. It helps me find a way to accept and adapt to change. What may have seemed hopeless and absurd is now something I might consider. I allow myself to pursue possibilities in the face of almost certain failure. 


Inhale. Hold. Exhale. Hold. Repeat.

It was Jesse's birthday and I brought his class Rice Krispy treats. They're a raucous group of 25 kids, grades Kindergarten, first and second combined. Jesse is the teacher. After we sugared the kids up, Jesse sat them down and asked them to give me their attention. I was about to teach them to meditate.

Here's what I said: I am going to teach you to do something you have known how to do since you were one second old. It's something every baby knows how to do. I am going to teach you to breathe. 

It worked. I had their attention. 

I taught them square breathing. With an index finger I swiped the top line of the square and told them to inhale for 5 seconds, then hold it. I drew the next imaginary line in the air and told them to exhale for 5 seconds, then hold. We drew the bottom line and the last line. When they were done I asked if anyone noticed anything. The kid who waves his hand in the air and says Ooh, ooh, ooh waved his hand at me. I called on him and he said:  I feel calmer.

I'm thinking about this experience now as I prepare to teach lawyers about meditation at a Continuing Legal Education seminar. If the primary school kids could get it, there's a chance the lawyers might too.

Juju Attack

When I wake up with a sniffle, I pop a zinc tablet. When I wake up with a bit of the bad juju, I panic. 


I know the juju when it hits me. My heart pounds; a troubling thought translates into more troubling thoughts. A vortex of worry cyclones though me. Brain to heart to belly, brain to heart to belly, brain to heart to belly. 

I'm no guru. I do not blissfully wallow in the place of peaceful transcendence where gurus hang out. My
consciousness has not evolved to the point where anger and confusion hover gently in the distance. The juju infects my consciousness and spreads. The harder I fight, the stronger it takes hold.

Breathing helps. Acceptance helps. It will run its course when it's good and damn ready.

The Pursuit of Possibility

The problem with the pursuit of happiness is that happiness is so damn ephemeral. It's vapor. It's obscure and nebulous and coy. It tends to hide when it's sought after and often arrives unexpectedly. The secret to happiness is that happiness is fickle and  unpredictable. Maybe that's not much of a secret.

We all know there's only one thing that is truly predictable and that is change. Meditation is the best way I have found to accept and adapt to change. The simple act of sitting in stillness allows me to embrace all those things I have not anticipated. It wears down my resistance to the new and unexpected. What may have seemed hopeless and absurd is now something I might consider. 

Pursue happiness? It's not my way. I prefer to contemplate possibility. 

Feminist Karma

A couple of days ago, I attended a rigorous induction to Kriya Yoga. The Kriya Yoga method is based on attention to breath as it relates to the chakras. The day was rigorous, the swamis equanimous, the seekers curious. 

The goal, said the swami, was to never have a single moment of unhappy or sorrowful time. He was patient with me when I asked about the flip side of this equation. If there is never deep sorrow, how would one experience deep joy? To reach a higher consciousness, he explained, is to withstand the most trying of times with a deep inner joy. 

This did not sit well with me. 

I notice all the gurus happen to be people who have never personally experienced the very physical collision of intense joy with intense pain: childbirth. 

The swami said: We don't know that. Perhaps they were women in a past life. 

Maybe I'm too much of a cynic and a feminist to think these men were recognized as being karmically evolved only when their outer life was gendered masculine. Besides, I don't believe much in coincidence. I meditate. I see connections between everything. 


meditation sprints

Yesterday, I attended Meditation in the Galleries held the second Saturday of the month at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Most of the meditation training I've encountered is either uncomfortable or overly complicated or both. This time I found an accessible practice taught by an encouraging teacher.  Lizbeth Wolfe demonstrated breathing techniques and focused meditation sprints that lasted one or two minutes. The space is filled with Hindu sculptures referencing creation and grace. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday morning. 


The yoga teacher says: With your eyes closed, cross your eyes and gaze at your third eye


So cool on so many levels.

Usually when I meditate, I focus on the light between my eyes. The light that once glowed blue for me has lately grown pretty dim. Another technique I use is to imagine a magnet in my chest drawing my thoughts from my head to my heart. 

Crossing closed eyes takes special concentration. I feel the confusion in my little eye muscles as they strain against each other, against what is possible.

You say serendipity, I say synchronicity

Oatman and I are writing a play together and he owes me a scene. He's late. I send him a message just as he's sitting down to write. He asks me if I'm psychic. A little, I say.

I trust myself more than I used to. 

Analyze less.

Analyze later.

Trust my gut more. Listen to my heart first.

Earlier in my life I made decisions based on a coin flip. If heads came up and I hated what it made me do, I knew to make the other choice. A less meditative model perhaps, but one that got me to pay attention to my gut. I don't need the coin flip anymore.

 Sammy says: it's serendipity. 

I call it synchronicity. The person who taught me to meditate calls it flow. You might call it God.

Mindful Law

Alan trained me to practice law. Much of the time we discussed the intricacies of statutes and judicial decisions, but often we had long talks about what would really make the client whole. This was not about the law. Spending a tremendous amount of money to sue someone or even defend yourself in a lawsuit rarely makes anyone whole or happy. 

We strategized about how to make the lawyer on the other side look like a hero and the way to craft the story to persuade our adversaries. It was important where we sat at the conference table, when we smiled, who spoke first. I often said to Alan I don't know exactly what it is you do, but it is not practicing law. Now I understand. Alan was practicing law, but he was practicing mindfully.

One of the core classes every law student takes is a class in Conflicts Negotiation. At the time I was enrolled in this class, none of it made sense to me. Then recently, one of my son's friends was telling me about the meditation instruction he received in his conflicts negotiation class at Northwestern University School of Law.

His professor, Leonard Riskin, has written  on the subject of mindfulness and the practice of law. In this article from the Harvard Negotiation Law Review, Professor Riskin writes: I wish to focus on how it can help law students and lawyers address two re- lated problems that many of them face. The first concerns high levels of unhappiness, stress, and depression among lawyers and law stu- dents. The second concerns the tendency of some lawyers to miss op- portunities to provide the most appropriate service to some clients.

As of two years ago, about 40 law schools were offering some kind of meditation instruction. There are at least two centers devoted to mindfulness and the law: University of California Berkeley and University of Miami.

In my world view, meditation relates to everything. Meditation enhances everything. Even lawyers are starting to get it. This is good for the world.