Book Review: The Origins of You May Help Your Inner Child Heal and Grow

One of the biggest stereotypes I encounter teaching lawyers about mindfulness is the fear that meditation will cause you to turn into a hippy obsessed with your inner child. I’ve written several times that this isn’t true. In fact, I have experienced the opposite and I proudly say that mindfulness has helped to make me a badass lawyer.

But, I have to be clear about something. That inner child which people like to mock all the time? Well, it’s real. The sooner you accept that and learn to embrace it, the better off you’ll be. In fact, the badassery I claim my mindfulness practice has given me emerged when I accepted my inner child and learned to take better care of her.

This is what The Origins of You, a book by Vienna Pharaon, intends to help you do. Despite her many followers on Instagram and the popularity of the book, I didn’t know what it was about when I borrowed it from my library. I had long been a fan of considering one’s origin story, perhaps because I write so much and understand the teaching value of a good story. So, it was the word “origins” that first got my attention.

Pharaon, a marriage and family therapist, never uses the word “inner child” in The Origins of You. Instead, she opts to use the term “wound” to describe the many injuries that each of us humans tend to experience in life and carry around with us as adults. Perhaps we experienced a “prioritization” wound because we experienced neglect or a “safety” wound if we experienced an injury or were treated recklessly.

While this linguistic choice makes sense from the standpoint of reducing identification with the past experience for the purposes of understanding it better, the presence of a wound implies a subject who was wounded. The thing I like about the book, however, is that it helps the reader understand that the inner child—even a wounded inner child—can grow up and heal. And who is the person who can help that child do this? Well, it’s you.

The book doesn’t just explain the variety of wounds that we ordinary people can walk around with and unconsciously try to protect every day. It also offers strategies for becoming aware of them, learning to face them, and ultimately to heal them. It shows how therapy, subtle changes in relationships, new styles of communication, and even practices like meditation can assist in that process.

As a whole, I found the book to be highly accessible (especially in contrast to other works that address healing from traumatic life experiences), practical, and useful to a broad variety of people. The book also does not only focus solely on traumatic experiences, but also explains how a range of life experiences (like a car accident or a medical procedure) can leave us feeling wounded and affect our lives for years to come.

In addition, I respected the balance that Pharaon offers in recognizing that not all personal wounds are necessarily anyone’s fault. The other common trope that goes with the “inner child” is the idea that personal healing inevitably causes us to blame our parents. As Pharaon acknowledges, though, sometimes wounds happen even when our parents or other caregivers in our life are doing their best or are affected by social or economic factors outside of their control. Instead of blame, the book offers high accountability, guided reflection in a way that doesn’t feel so lonely, and tools for positive change.

My one concern is not something that should cause anyone to avoid the book, but is more of a heads up for those who read it and try the practices. The book includes several guided meditations intended as practices to help readers face and heal their wounds. I found the practices to be well-crafted and many appeared to be rooted in research-based practices with which I was familiar.

People new to mindfulness, however, might find them challenging to do on their own. As I have written before, meditation may allow traumatic memories and experiences to arise and past trauma can make focus and stability during meditation a challenge. For those new to healing or new to the practice of meditation, give yourself ample time or consider seeking support before doing the practices.

Overall, The Origins of You is a well-written and accessible book full of practical tools and clear analysis of the wounds that trouble so many of us. Though most examples in the book address personal relationships, lawyers could easily benefit from it given how critical personal relationships are to law practice. If you want to learn more about yourself or the other people in your life, check out The Origins of You for some helpful tools for learning how to take better care of your inner child to help you be the adult you want to be.

Want to learn more about mindfulness and compassion? Check out my new book, How to Be a Badass Lawyer, for a simple guide to creating a meditation practice of your own in 30 days. And to share mindfulness with your little one, check out my new children’s book, Mommy Needs a Minute.

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Back to School for Lawyers: A Month of Posts about Books and Teachers

As the parent of two girls, I can’t tell you how excited I am for back to school. This has been a weird summer. We had two trips over the summer and I was a little bit disorganized when it came to getting my kids into camps. This means that they had a whole lot of unstructured time and the whole house fell out of a routine.

Getting back to school will surely be an adjustment for us all, but I’m thrilled to have some structure again. In much the same way, I’m happy to bring back some structure on the blog too. When I launched the blog, I used monthly themes to help me select topics and generate a variety of posts. Last year, though, I had to pause while writing my first book and the theme concept felt stifling when I can back to blogging again.

This month, though, the theme idea has come roaring back just when I needed a little more structure in my life. My friend, Eden Davis Stevens, wrote a wonderful review of the book Stolen Focus. My other friend from my book coaching cohort, Monica Jenkins, made contact to talk about her book, The Cost of Clutter. And, I have been been on a reading tear over the last several months. The reviews are piling up in my head just like the books I have piling up on my bookshelves.

Beyond this, some of the most popular posts on the blog are the book reviews. Let’s give the people what they want. Stay tuned the rest of the month for more posts about books and teachers. Following up on the review of Stolen Focus last week will be my review of The Origins of You by Vienna Pharaon on Tuesday. Stay tuned and best wishes to you on a happy, healthy, safe, and peaceful school year.

Want to learn more about mindfulness and compassion? Check out my new book, How to Be a Badass Lawyer, for a simple guide to creating a meditation practice of your own in 30 days. And to share mindfulness with your little one, check out my new children’s book, Mommy Needs a Minute.

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Book Review: Stolen Focus: by Johann Hari

I hit a wall last year. People-pleasing and general anxiety were no longer enough to propel me forward. I couldn’t concentrate on anything.

Information of any kind – from school fundraisers to requests from parties in cases – was burdensome. Each email or phone call was just one more thing to consider, remember, and address. I felt trapped.   

As a life-long resident of the Ohio River Valley, I attempted to self-diagnosis by asking, “Is it depression, allergies, or exhaustion?”, whenever this familiar dark sensation appears. It all feels so tragically similar that this fun trio seemed to be the obvious suspect.  

Upon further analysis, this usual explanation didn’t seem quite right. It felt larger than “merely” being overwhelmed by life. There was stress, but not an unusual amount. So, at first, I attempted to tackle my symptoms one by one. I had some aging-related issues to address. I finally started seeing an allergist who greatly improved the quality of my life. I leant into naps and self-care.  

And yet it remained – the feeling that someone was constantly changing channels inside my head. The simplest of tasks required more and more of me to accomplish. It was unsustainable.  

At last, I discovered the culprit hiding in plain sight. The last and ultimately guilty suspect was the glowing rectangle in my hand. Fortunately for me, this item was no smooth criminal because it’s very use help me discover its culpability in my predicament.  

A Youtube show called “Offline”, introduced me to the author, Johann Hari, who took this topic on after a disappointing and eye-opening trip with his godson to Graceland.  After watching people choose to swipe on an iPad to “see” the Jungle Room they were physically standing in he recognized a sickness creeping over all of us.  

Out of this came Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention and How to Think Deeply Again. Hari begins with himself, describing a self-imposed internet detox. He was financially able to put himself up for three months in Rhode Island with an old laptop, no internet service, and no access to a smart phone. Much like any addiction, he started with some bumpy experiences, followed by a “pink cloud” of euphoria as his ability to digest long and complex books returned. When the end of his retreat grew near a wave of panic washed over him as he wondered how he could keep what he worked to regain.  

Hari understands that, in our modern society, it is hard to completely detach yourself from social media platforms and internet access. He explores in the remainder of the book how one can balance this need while retaining the ability to stay focused. Hari interviews several researchers and fellow authors who have explored the algorithms of media giants, looked at macro trends across the world, and managed addictions.   

Hari approached his sources with an open mind, which I appreciate in this current ultra-binary climate. He gives a thorough explanation of each person’s position and their reasoning (citing to their work in the Appendix), whether he ultimately agrees or disagrees with them. I found this rudimentary, but foundational, journalist step strangely and depressingly refreshing.   

Many non-fiction books I’ve recently come across are a soft to rock hard sell of the author’s point of view. As a reader, I felt more at ease reaching an “ala carte” set of conclusions about modern technology and where it is going. Hari leans pessimistic, believing modern smart phones hasten and exacerbate the impulsive thinking and action of world leaders at a time fraught with multiple emergencies. (I, on the other hand, agree with the school of thought Hari describes – smart phones are a new technology that we can and will healthily adapt to… eventually.)  

While the background to dopamine-fueling algorithms was enlightening, I was much more interested in the practical suggestions Hari provides throughout the book and summarizes toward the end. One such suggestion is an app that I now have downloaded on my phone called, Freedom.  

Freedom is a VPN that blocks anything from one website to the entire internet. Much like learning to keep cookies and soda out of one’s house (ok, my house) to avoid eating or drinking these sugar-laden snacks, this app is designed to keep you from temptation. Do you have a trigger-finger for one-click Amazon purchases? A little too curious too often about what your exes are up to these days? This app helps you help yourself.  

When I finished reading Hari’s book, I felt so relieved that I wasn’t alone in this struggle. Perhaps ironically, I posted to Facebook to share a summary of what I learned with friends. Within seconds people responded with similar concerns/relief that it wasn’t necessarily aging or undiagnosed ADHD.   

Much like Hari, as I continue to tinker with the right amount of phone use, I have improved my own attention span.  If I can, you can. I recommend Stolen Focus as a great first step in striking a better balance and improving your relationship with your smart phone. 

Want to learn more about mindfulness and compassion? Check out my new book, How to Be a Badass Lawyer, for a simple guide to creating a meditation practice of your own in 30 days. And to share mindfulness with your little one, check out my new children’s book, Mommy Needs a Minute.

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Why Is Attorney Mental Health So Important? Interview on the Is that Even Legal Podcast

I haven’t been asked too many times why I care so much about attorney mental health. Most people, I assume, see this as a pretty obvious thing. After all, I’m an attorney and I’ve personally experienced mental health challenges in myself and for those very close to me. So, perhaps, it goes without saying that attorney mental health is really important to me.

But there’s something deeper here and I got to talk about it on a recent podcast appearance I did for the hilariously named Is That Even Legal Podcast. On the show, fellow attorney Robert Sewell, asked why attorney mental health mattered so much and why mental health was such a struggle for lawyers in particular.

Of course, attorney mental health matters so much because lawyers affect the lives of so many people. Lawyers in big companies or large firms may touch thousands of lives with their cases. And even lawyers in the smallest of firms or companies have a major impact on their clients. In many cases, community and government leaders are lawyers. This is why I am passionate about attorney mental health: because it affects me, my family, my community, and the world.

I liked that Robert asked me these fundamental questions because they matter so much. But as a true lawyer, I have to admit that my favorite part of the interview was that Robert didn’t just accept it when I told him that mindfulness and compassion can help with lawyer mental health. Instead, he played devil’s advocate and pushed me to explain how.

For anyone who has read this blog or my books, you know that’s my jam. While I admitted that mindfulness won’t work in isolation and without solid workplace and legal policies and supports and social change, I argued that mindfulness and compassion offer the stability and the courage to make needed personal and organizational change.

If you care about attorney mental health or want to understand how mindfulness can really work, check out the interview here.

Want to learn more about mindfulness and compassion? Check out my new book, How to Be a Badass Lawyer, for a simple guide to creating a meditation practice of your own in 30 days. And to share mindfulness with your little one, check out my new children’s book, Mommy Needs a Minute.

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Fear and Loathing on Family Vacations and How Mindfulness Can Help

This summer, I had the odd experience of having two family vacations. I went to Disney World and Universal with my family for our typical family trip, and then my husband and kids tagged along for a trip to Colorado Springs for a conference with the FDCC where I taught a mindfulness mini course for my fellow lawyers.

Spiritual teacher/standup comedian, Ram Dass, once famously said “If you think you are enlightened, go spend a week with your family.” Applying this wisdom to my own life, my ventures this summer gave me not one, but two, chances to prove something I already know: after a decade of meditation practice and lots of training, I still am not enlightened.

Traveling in the summer with your family means traffic, long lines, intense heat, whiny and ungrateful kids, and bad moods all around. On the flip side, though, it also presents the opportunity to explore new things, have some fun, and reconnect with your loved ones. How do those of us who remain unenlightened avoid option number 1 in pursuit of option number 2?

Even though it can’t make family vacations easy, mindfulness sure can help. Here are the five ways that mindfulness helped me this summer while traveling with my family.

We all have these idyllic images in our head of a life-changing and mind-expanding family trip that we can remember fondly for years to come. The cold, harsh reality, however, is that traveling with family is hard. First, traveling is a lot of work. It involves planning and effort and many activities that involve deferred gratification.

For instance, we spent a day at the Magic Kingdom on my first family trip this summer. Kids love amusement parks and Disney is an expert at contriving whimsy and fun. My weather app, however, told me the experience would be brutal because the temperature would be in the mid-90’s.

My plan? I had no plan. I just accepted that the day would be miserable and exhausting. As I walked into the park with the overtures from Disney staff to have a “magical day!”, I internally set the goal of survival and trying to make the best of it. My priority was basic needs: keeping us as cool as possible, managing hydration and blood sugar levels, and monitoring sun screen applications.

Was this magical? Probably not in the traditional sense. But we got out of there with any major meltdowns, we rode some rides, and joked around while waiting in line. Given the circumstances, I’ll call that miraculous.

Did I mention that heat? It was super hot on both trips. Sometimes we were standing around in full sun just waiting. In a word, it sucked. This is where my mindfulness and yoga training really came in handy. Two practices in particular really helped. The first is sheetali breath (a pranayama practice), which my kids love because we call it “taco tongue.”

Sheetali is a cooling breath. To do it, you curl your tongue lengthwise to form the shape of a taco and stick it out through your lips. Then you breathe in through your tongue, pull your tongue in your mouth, and exhale. Essentially what this does is turn your tongue into a fresh air collecting device and it produces a cooling sensation in your mouth.

I also stole a trick from yoga nidra practice. Yoga nidra is a practice intended for deep relaxation and sleep. It’s dynamic and includes several different strategies in one practice. One helps in challenging times: exploring the opposites. As I stood waiting in line for the Haunted Mansion in full sun, I avoided diving deeper into the fiery hell that was my current experience. Instead, I tried to focus on anything cool. If a breeze came, I savored it. If I took a drink, I leaned into the feeling of the cold water. If I got a few minutes in the shade, I absorbed it like a sponge.

Do these practices really and truly cool down the body in intense heat? I’m not sure if my body temperature changed, but the cool sensations were pleasant. In addition, breathing deeply and monitoring my attention helped me stay calm. I’ll call that a win.

I’ve written before about my youngest daughter. She comes by her stubbornness honestly, but daresay I think she may be more stubborn than me. When she doesn’t get her way, watch out. Though she is very good-natured and loves to have fun, her mood will shift drastically toward defiance, obstinance, and even recklessness when she’s mad.

On our trips, this happened a few times in front of large crowds of people. The bad thing about this is that I had the added pressure of looking like I was a “good mom” in addition to being a human trying to deal with an angry kid. So, what’s the move here?

The thing that helped me was common humanity. When your kid is throwing a fit in front of others, it’s easy to assume everyone is looking at and judging you. Maybe some are, but most people have had to deal with kids being kids before. If we are being honest, most of us have been that kid before.

When I remember that a kid throwing a tantrum in public is something all parents have experienced at some point, my little one’s leverage disappears. I no longer have the time pressure to stop the tantrum at all costs because I’m not worried about my status as a good mom. Instead, I can let my stubborn girl know where she got her stubbornness, not with anger, but instead by taking my time. This lets me help her understand the consequences, make the choice to calm down, and get to the bottom of what her problem is, so we can all move on.

By remembering that all of us parents are trying to do the best we can, I dodged the harsh sting of perceived judgment, focused on the issue, and got back to having fun more quickly.

I may have made these two trips sound like all work and no play, but that’s not how it was. There were a lot of great things about the trips and many memories were made. How are memories made? Memories are made from experience and attention.

Given all the work I was doing as a parent to plan the trip and help my kids cope, I made a point of savoring the good things that happened. A few days after our visit to Magic Kingdom, we spent a day at Universal Studios. I really don’t enjoy theme parks that much, but my oldest daughter is a Harry Potter fan so we couldn’t avoid it.

And you know what? The weather was not so hot, Butterbeer was so much tastier than I expected, and I was surprised to find myself having a magical moment when we first stumbled upon Diagon Alley. Did this completely offset the heat or my kids fighting while standing in line or the motion sickness I sometimes experienced on the rides? No. But it sure helped, and it allowed me to watch my daughter’s reaction to the experience, which was the whole point.

Likewise, in Colorado Springs, the scenery offered a built-in stress management tool. Half of my family, including me, experienced physical side effects from the altitude. Even so, it was easy to understand the effort while taking a tour in Garden of the Gods (a place so beautiful that even it’s divine name doesn’t do it justice). Perhaps my kids were fighting while driving from place to place, but I just had to look up and see the mountains across the horizon to change my mood.

Noticing these good things didn’t take the bad aspects away. It wasn’t a practice of avoiding the work and the frustration and fatigue of travel. Instead, savoring the good helped me remember why I had decided to travel at all.

The last test for my mindfulness skills was the return trip home from Colorado Springs. My husband had joined us on the trip but flew elsewhere for another event the day before. This means that I was left to travel alone with two girls. We had to get up early, drive an hour to Denver, drop of the car, get through security, and onto our flight home.

The first few steps went well and we ended up in the line for security a little less than two hours before our flight. I thought we were golden and was already imagining the breakfast and coffee I’d be ordering while waiting at our gate. Then I saw the security line. And when I say “saw,” I mean that we kept walking and walking to try to find the point where the line started. I had never seen a security line so long and I felt panic creep up on me.

In fact, the man behind me started to verbally panic, saying things like “I should have gotten here at 5 AM” and “there’s no way we are going to make it.” If I was by myself, I admit that I might have succumbed to this too, but I had my daughters with me. If I freaked out, they certainly would. So what did I do?

I did the only thing I could do: wait and see. I told the girls (and myself) let’s get in line and watch how it moves. To my astonishment, it moved quickly. Within 15 minutes, we were in the actual line. We celebrated with a big “yay” when we got there. Within 30 minutes, I could see the TSA staff herding people along. I celebrated by feeling grateful for their efforts.

We arrived at our gate with only a few minutes to spare but we had time to get some protein and a cool drink on the way to make the flight more comfortable. The best news is that we all ended up on the flight in a reasonably good mood. As I’ve said before, seeing the good didn’t take the bad away, but it offered me (and by extension my kids) balance so we could stay steady.

I’m not sure anything can make traveling with family a breeze. There are emotions and history and challenges in store for anyone who travels long distances with their loved ones. Mindfulness practices and strategies, however, go right to the heart of your experience as a human. By helping you manage your body, heart, and mind, mindfulness may take some of the fear and loathing out of family vacations.

Want to learn more about mindfulness and compassion? Check out my new book, How to Be a Badass Lawyer, for a simple guide to creating a meditation practice of your own in 30 days. And to share mindfulness with your little one, check out my new children’s book, Mommy Needs a Minute.

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A Message from Your Future Self: Reflecting on Ten Years of Meditation Practice

Editor’s Note: I realized this month that I have been meditating for ten years. It seemed like it should be a big deal, but I had a really hard time understanding what the big deal was. I struggled to think this through in the present tense, so I got the idea of writing a letter to myself ten years ago. Bingo. The big deal isn’t the ten years at all, but what happened in them. Please enjoy this post and consider writing yourself a letter from time to time. You may just learn something.

Dear Claire,

This is from you in the future. I know that seems weird. No, they haven’t invented time machines; at least not yet. Instead, this is a note from your future self in 2023.

You just started meditating. I know you feel like a total weirdo. I know that you haven’t told anyone—literally anyone—yet that you are meditating. I know that you don’t even know what it is you are supposed to be looking for as you focus on your breath. I know these things because, as I say, I’m you but from ten years in the future.

I know that right now you probably don’t think meditation is that important. You are only doing it for one minute a day because that’s all you can handle. You’re usually not calm when you do it and you frequently get frustrated because it’s never quiet enough for you to really relax. I’m writing to tell you to keep going anyway.

Look, I get it. I know meditation is boring and right now you feel like you have no time. I know that being a mom to a one-year-old as a litigation associate is intense and some days you aren’t sure you could handle everything. But, listen, meditation will help you in ways you couldn’t even imagine.

I bet you can’t see it yet, but you will soon start to see some subtle shifts. Some of those headaches you always get will go away. You’ll learn that they were caused by stress. Then you’ll start to notice when you’re rushing and stop. Over time, more and more little things like this will rack up in your mind until you realize that meditation is helping you.

It will take some time until the big changes happen, but trust me they will. Did you know that you wrote a book? Well, now it’s three and you are working on a fourth. You made partner, and you have another daughter too. And you can manage it all and you aren’t exhausted all the time because you know how to rest and can rest (for real) when you need it.

How did this happen? Like everything, it happened over time. But in large part this happened because you learned to be there for yourself. Slowly and gradually and not without angst, but it happened. You know all those thoughts swirling in your head all the time that seem overwhelming? Well, it turns out you can face them just fine. And you know all those feelings—the crappy ones like anger and fear and sadness and doubt? You won’t fully understand this until you experience it, but you learn how to handle them. That is to say, you learned how to just feel them.

You did all these things because you learned how to sit with your eyes closed in a dark room by yourself for a few minutes a day. Right now, this pastime may seem foolish to you. You may be ashamed that you have to do something so stupid. I’m writing to tell you that what you are doing isn’t foolish. Instead, it’s so profoundly practical that it’s value is hard to see.

You’ve spent a lot of life running from yourself. You’ve spent so many years chasing external validation. Even when you got all the things in life you were supposed to want (a good job and a family), something still seemed missing. You don’t know it yet but you went looking for the missing thing in the right place. As you will see, there was nothing missing at all. But your joy, your spark, your creativity and courage, it was just buried under years of trying to feel the right thing or do what you believed you were supposed to do.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not telling you it’s all going to be rainbows from here on out. Sorry to disappoint but that’s not how this works. You’ll have hard times in the next ten years for sure. You’ll lose loved ones and friends will move away. You’ll change jobs. You’ll make poor choices. You’ll say things you wish you hadn’t said and make huge mistakes.

But here’s the thing: now you at least have a practice that can help you handle all these things. You’ll learn how to hold disappointment in tenderness and care for your fear and pain. You’ll even learn how to tame your anger (most of the time) and quiet down your doubt voice. You’ll even learn how to ask for help–that you CAN ask for help. It’s all because you can sit and do nothing.

Because as you sit, you can let all those things bounce and dance and do their thing and breathe and give them space. You won’t be a perfect meditator. You will miss days frequently and sometimes go weeks or months without practice. You will fall asleep often. Your focus will be poor. And motivation will be an unending struggle. In case you have any delusions about enlightenment, you won’t attain that either. But you’ll keep coming back to the cushion because you know it will make you feel better even if the practice session itself is no good.  

And it’s this that will teach you the most. Being imperfect at meditation will help you learn to let yourself be imperfect at life. That might sound a bit scary to you now because you are under a lot of pressure, but it will be a lot of fun. It will be more fun than you ever thought you’d have. Soon you’ll be chasing dreams you haven’t even thought about yet. Can you imagine? You will soon because, once you cut through some old habits, you’ll start to trust yourself.

You won’t feel a big wave of pride when you realize you have been meditating for ten years. It won’t be like winning an award or getting a degree. It won’t feel that way because you won’t be done. Instead, it will feel more like remembering the day you met your best friend and being glad you were brave enough to go talk to them. You’ll just look back and be glad you did that small, brave thing because it added so much to your life.

And so, Claire, my dearest self, thank you so much. I am so glad you made the brave decision to start meditating. Please keep going because it has helped me get to know you and made the life I now know possible.   

With gratitude, Your Future Self

Want to learn more about mindfulness and compassion? Check out my new book, How to Be a Badass Lawyer, for a simple guide to creating a meditation practice of your own in 30 days. And to share mindfulness with your little one, check out my new children’s book, Mommy Needs a Minute.

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A Candid Convo about Compassion for Lawyers

Bulldog lawyer. I hear this term all of the time. Clients say that they want a bulldog lawyer. Sometimes I even hear other lawyers request referrals to bulldog lawyers for friends or other contacts. As a mindfulness teacher, I try to remember nonjudgment and that sometimes people use a term without thinking much about all of its implications.

But I do not use the term bulldog lawyer and I would never refer a case to another lawyer that I primarily thought of as a bulldog. Why? A few reasons. One is that my experience with lawyers who try to craft an image of aggression has not been a positive one. Not only do they create needless fights, I generally haven’t found to be effective.

The best lawyers, in my experience, are the ones that fight hard when its appropriate but are otherwise focused on solving problems. This is what I talked about recently with host, Joe Bravo, on the show Candid Conversations with Get Staffed Up.

Joe had attended a recent presentation I did on confidence for the 2023 Legal Up Virtual Conference. Joe practices yoga and he was intrigued by my discussion of compassion, in particular self-compassion, in relation to confidence so he invited me on the show. Though polite, Joe was not shy about resolving the apparent cognitive dissonance between being an effective lawyer and compassion.

But I didn’t shy away from this in my response either because I know that mindfulness and compassion don’t get in the way of being an effectively aggressive lawyer at all. To the contrary, as I explain in the interview and in more detail in my book, How to Be a Badass Lawyer, compassion is foundational to this.

To break this down as simply as I can, I offer this logical syllogism.

When you see it this way, it’s clear that compassion and mindfulness don’t make lawyers that are too chill to care about their clients and act with force and power. Instead, the opposite is true. Mindfulness can help lawyers see things clearly and manage the cold hard facts as they are. Compassion is the capacity to be present with difficult problems and remain willing to help. This is what good lawyers (or as I would describe “badass lawyers”) should be able to do for their clients.

If you want to check out the full interview, you can find it shared on our YouTube channel or watch it here:

Want to learn more about mindfulness and compassion? Check out my new book, How to Be a Badass Lawyer, for a simple guide to creating a meditation practice of your own in 30 days. And to share mindfulness with your little one, check out my new children’s book, Mommy Needs a Minute.

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What Is the Difference Between Pranayama and Meditation?

Having taught meditation now for nearly 5 years, I commonly get comments in my sessions with comments about practices that aren’t, strictly speaking, meditation. They will rave about the benefits of box breathing or mention that their therapist/coach/yoga teacher taught them 4-7-8 breathing and it changed their life. I always welcome these comments and express agreement with their efficacy, since getting into technical differences of the practices is not always beneficial.

Even so, questions like these have made me curious about the differences between pranayama and meditation. Because my experience with meditation has primarily been based on practices derived from Buddhism and yoga has never been my first love, I used pranayama very little in my own practice. This summer, I decided to change that and obtained a certification to teach pranayama to expand my knowledge on the subject.

In truth, there are distinct differences between meditation and pranayama and these differences matter. That is not to say, however, that the practices cannot be effectively combined. This blog post will explore the differences to give you context so that you can decide how best to use them both to support your own practice.


The first notable difference between pranayama and meditation is origin. This issue can be a little tricky, of course, since there are many types of pranayama and many types of meditation. The secular study of both yogic and Buddhist practices and concepts has also led to a the development of further practices that may intertwine some of these ideas further.

The first fundamental difference between meditation and pranayama is breath. Though meditation very commonly involves the breath, focus on the breath is not required for meditation. Practices like loving-kindness or body scan, for instance, don’t use the breath as a focal point and numerous other focal points (such as a mantra, candle flame, sounds, or mental images) can be used in place of the breath. Pranayama, on the other hand, is the practice of working with the breath.

A less obvious difference is that pranayama derives from yogic practices and most of the most popular forms of meditation (Vipassana, Zen, loving-kindness, tonglen, etc.) derive from Buddhist philosophy. This distinction may not matter so much for practitioners who just want relief or a good support, but the different origins shed light on the different focuses of the practices.

Clearly, different teachers and schools of thought can modify this idea, but yogic philosophy is much more concerned with clearing the mind while Buddhist meditation is more intended to make peace with the mind. Thus, Vipassana or Zen meditators are usually encouraged to observe the breath and allow the mind to calm on its own. With pranayama, however, the breath is used as a tool and often manipulated for the purpose of clearing the mind, balancing energy, and creating physical benefits.


Though there are differences between pranayama and meditation, they are not entirely distinct and need not always be kept separate. The first thing that pranayama and meditation share are the potential benefits. Because they both address the fundamentals of human life, both meditation and pranayama can result in mental and physical benefits. Done correctly, both practices can help the mind and body sync up and calm down.

For this very reason, both meditation and pranayama can be important and beneficial supports for individuals. They both deserve a place in a regular self-care regimen and they both can be used in the moment to maintain balance during difficult times. As one example, I really enjoy using alternate nostril breath during the day as a quick break to refresh myself and take a pause.

Another similarity is that pranayama and meditation go very nicely together. Yogic philosophy deems meditation as one of its eight limbs and so it is not uncommon for yoga classes to feature breath work and meditation. In the same way, many meditation teachers brought up in the Buddhist tradition (myself included) often incorporate pranayama into their guided meditation.

For instance, one way that I began experimenting with pranayama recently is to use it at the beginning of my meditation sessions as a way to quickly ground and relax myself. I have found ujayi breath to be a great tool for reconnecting with the breath due to its physical and auditory enhancements of the breath.

In short, pranayama and meditation are not the same. They have different origins and in many cases the purposes of the practices are distinct. Even so, they both have benefits for mental and physical health and they can complement each other nicely. Now that you understand how the practices are different but similar, the next step is to explore them both and determine what combination of practices work best for you.

Want to learn more about mindfulness and compassion? Check out my new book, How to Be a Badass Lawyer, for a simple guide to creating a meditation practice of your own in 30 days. And to share mindfulness with your little one, check out my new children’s book, Mommy Needs a Minute.

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Feedspot Names Brilliant Legal Mind One of 25 Best Lawyer Mom Blogs

If you start a blog hoping for instant recognition, you are bound to experience disappointment. Even so, it’s nice when recognition comes along.

In 2022, Feedspot named the blog on the 25 Best Lawyer Mom Blogs. The list was recently updated for 2023 and the blog made the list again. You can check out the full list here.

Now, is the blog really a “lawyer mom” blog? Though I didn’t intend that classification when I launched the blog in 2020, I think it’s close enough. The sub-subtitle of my book, How to Be a Badass Lawyer, is “Written by a Lawyer Mom from Kentucky.” That’s because, as I write in the book, my experience with early motherhood is what prompted me to start meditating in the first place.

I also write frequently about my experience as a parent in Mindful Family posts. In those posts, I have written about finding a quiet place to meditate with kids, teaching kids about mindfulness, staying calm during kid tantrums and the value of enjoying the small moments with your kids. More recently, I also authored a children’s book with the very lawyer mom title: Mommy Needs a Minute.

It’s also nice to share a spot on the list with some lawyer mom friends, including MothersEsquire. I have previously served on the Board for that organization, written several times for their partnership with Above the Law, and their founder wrote the foreword to my book.

So, although I consider this blog a “mindfulness blog” first, I will proudly claim the title of lawyer mom blog too. Thanks to Feedspot for the continued recognition and to all the readers who have followed and supported the blog.

Want to learn more about mindfulness and compassion? Check out my new book, How to Be a Badass Lawyer, for a simple guide to creating a meditation practice of your own in 30 days. And to share mindfulness with your little one, check out my new children’s book, Mommy Needs a Minute.

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Balance Is My Mantra: An Interview with Lawyer, Author, Mom, Community Leader, and Meditator, Tahmina Watson

My friend, Tahmina Watson, is one of the most accomplished lawyers I know. She’s an immigration lawyer, mom, community leader, podcaster, as of today, the author of three books, and an avid birdwatcher and photographer. Like me, meditation has been part of what helps her balance all of these demands and interests. In celebration of her latest book, which is released appropriately today on July 4th, I offer this interview to share information about a different style of meditation and a new story showcasing the benefits of meditation for lawyers.

Q. Tahmina, can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

A. I’m an immigration attorney in Seattle, Washington. My firm, Watson Immigration Law, is a boutique firm that focuses on business immigration law, which primarily serves small to mid-size businesses. And within business immigration I have a specific focus on startups and visas. We do a little bit of family-based immigration (parents, spouses, children) and some citizenship work as well. I don’t normally do defense in immigration court, but as a community leader I have volunteered to serve humanitarian interests relating to immigration. I’m also the author of three books, a podcaster, a columnist for Above the Law, a bar leader, and an avid birdwatcher.

Q. How did you become interested in immigration law?

It was very random. I moved from the United Kingdom to be with my American husband, and I really didn’t want to practice immigration law. When I moved from the UK, my UK law degree and experience as a barrister did not mean I could obtain a license to practice in the U.S. I took the New York bar exam because it was the one that I could take without going to law school again. But that limited my practice options to federal law since I lived in Washington State. Immigration matters kept coming my way, even though I said no to it about four times. And then the fifth time I said, Okay, well, let’s just do this.

The first day of practicing immigration law made me realize I wanted to keep going. It’s fast paced and intellectually challenging. I’m touching people’s hearts and minds and lives very tangibly. I can see the results of the work and I’m really helping people’s lives for generations to come. It allows me to work with intelligent people who have ambitious goals of changing the world every day, and that really fulfills me in trying to make their dreams come true.

Q. I know you had a really positive experience with meditation. Can you tell me a little bit about your practice and how you got started with it?

Political turmoil over the last several years has created a lot of stress in my law practice. It was overwhelming to be able to practice law, serve my community, be a mother and a wife, and do all the things I do. I was stressed and the stress kept building. And I didn’t really know what the answer was, but I considered meditation even though I wasn’t really sure what it was. I used the Insight Timer app on my phone informally and as needed for a while and that was an entry point for me. But, I had a few incidents where I realized I really needed to have a more robust meditation practice.

I kept wondering am I doing it right? Why are all these thoughts in my head? Isn’t it supposed to be completely silent? I Googled meditation lessons and what kept coming up for me was Transcendental Meditation (“TM”) lessons and it was available in my area. Even though I wasn’t used to spending money on myself much, I thought, “I’m just going to try this because I know what’s going to help me.” And I also realized that if I didn’t do something about it for me, I would not be able to help my children learn how to manage their own stress.

One of the things that initially concerned me was how do I even find time to go to this training? Because I think one of the things that we all think about is we don’t have time to do extra things, but I put it on the calendar and I attended all of the classes. The TM method recommends two 20-minue meditation sessions a day. Though I confess that I still don’t have that second meditation block, but my first meditation block has served me very well.

Now, once I went through the training, I had to find that 20-minute block of time for practice through trial and error and trial and error. It took me about nine months, believe it or not, to find that practice time. Where was my space? Where was my time? Where was the moment that I could actually have that block without somebody bothering me or a kid jumping in and saying I need this or a client calling or an email popping up? Where was that? I eventually found solace in my parking garage, where it was dark but I have come to cherish that time. So it became my practice of doing TM 20 minutes a day, first thing in the morning after dropping my child off at school.

Q. For those of us who don’t do TM, can you explain procedurally what the practice consists of and how you use the practice in your life?

TM starts with completing a questionnaire with the trained teachers. Based on your answers, they assign a mantra (word or small phrase) that is unique to you. You’re not supposed to share it. When you sit down to meditate you’re supposed to repeat that mantra over and over again. It doesn’t mean that the monkey mind won’t wander, but when it does you come back to your mantra. The mantra is almost like the guiding force for you. The practice method is very simple; you sit down for 20 minutes and repeat that mantra in your head.

Q. What did you do to bring your meditation practice back or shift it to make it work for your life as it is now?

I think what happened during COVID, and we all experienced it, was that suddenly our lives changed. Suddenly there were two kids having school in my house and my husband and I figuring out how to practice law at home. This made it challenging to find a quiet time in the house again. At first, I actually started to stand on my deck and just be outside and we take a few moments to take some deep breaths and that allowed me to really be out in nature. Eventually, I began waking up earlier in the day before the kids woke up so I could resume formal meditation practice. I have gone through various iterations, but I had been able to finally incorporate meditation back into my life with a daily practice of 20 minutes or getting outside. Sometimes my meditation is walking outside in nature and sometimes I do TM for 20 minutes.

Q. How does meditation help you balance everything?

When I was working on one of my books, I was already waking up early to meditate and had to get up even earlier to get in some time for writing. Once I got on this routine established, I didn’t want to break the chain that developed. I continued with that early morning rising and that’s how I would incorporate my meditation first and then my writing. This was never a perfect schedule and sometimes I slept in, but meditation for me was a constant.

Even if it was only a few minutes, meditation became the foundation to continue to be calm and proactive and not reactive, but reflective. And that helped with everything around me. It helps me stay steady when the clients are anxious because their lives or their livelihoods are at stake. Like me, they are often high achievers who are naturally anxious people. And I didn’t really realize how much anxiety I was taking on with each anxious client. But then I realized this meditation was my shield, but also my mirror for them. And so the meditation is really the beginning and end of everything I do, because it’s the foundation to be able to handle as much as you know, that life throws at me all you when I believe that’s how you are able to deal with everything.

To learn more about Tahmina, you can connect with her on LinkedIn. You can read her column on Above the Law or find all of her books on Amazon, including The Start Up Visa: US Immigration Guide for Startups and Founders, which releases today.

Want to learn more about mindfulness and compassion? Check out my new book, How to Be a Badass Lawyer, for a simple guide to creating a meditation practice of your own in 30 days. And to share mindfulness with your little one, check out my new children’s book, Mommy Needs a Minute.

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