Lawyers Need to Drop the Shame and Blame Routine

What if I told you that there was a simple way to improve mental health in the legal profession? If there was something small you could do, even for the opposing counsel you dislike, you’d do it, right? Maybe you’d grumble about how opposing counsel would never do something so selfless. But in the end, you’d try because you are a good person.

So what is this simple thing: stop shaming and blaming your opposing counsel. (Note: whenever a meditation teacher tells you something is “simple” they pick that word to distinguish it from “easy.”)

If you are anything like me, I bet you didn’t like reading that line at all. I’m the kind of person who doesn’t suffer fools kindly. I’m the kind of person who calls a spade a spade. When someone is wrong, in particular about the law or in a way that could hurt my client, I say it loud and clear.

At least, that’s how I used to think about it. But then I paid a little more attention to my emotions. I got some training in things like mindfulness and compassion. And I realized how devastating, terrible, and powerful the emotion shame can be.

Shame is something that kept me in a box and afraid to be myself for years. Shame is one of the things that keeps lawyers from getting help to address our mental health. Shame is the thing that keeps lots of us humans from connecting to each other even though that’s what we want more than anything in the world.

Now, I have only rarely experienced yelling or truly calculated shaming from other lawyers in my fifteen years of practice. On this account, I have seen the profession become kinder and gentler over the years. But the thoughtless, everyday shaming? That doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.

Despite this, I don’t believe that most lawyers are bad people intent on harming each other. In fact, most of my experiences with other lawyers strongly suggest the opposite. However, we are a profession trained extensively in the art of stating positions, assigning blame, and making judgments.

If we don’t take care, that’s a combination that can lead to some pretty hurtful statements. As a lawyer who cares deeply about my work, I have to watch that my legal position does not become a moral crusade against my opponent. It’s also easy to let my judgments about a case morph into judgments about the character of my opposing counsel. Finally, litigation lends itself so well to pointing out the party at fault that the next logical step is to hurl blame at opposing counsel.

Here’s the problem, though, this feels terrible and it makes life miserable. For lawyers who spend huge amounts of our lives at work, using this kind of language sets us all up for a profession steeped in hostility and negativity. With so much negativity and other challenges in life, do we really need this at work too? No we don’t.

So, how can we start to watch out for shame and blame in our communications without sacrificing their impact? Here are a few tips that have helped me.

1. Focus on the issues.

The first thing you can do to avoid shaming and blaming opposing counsel is to get clear about the purpose of your communication. What is your client’s interest? What is your goal for the meeting or call or hearing? If you get clear about this, it will help you keep you focused on what matters in the case and avoid getting distracted by emotions that can arise like frustration or fear. So, before you take a position, get clear on what it is and how it serves your client.

2. Note the emotional tone in your communications.

This is a simple one, but it is often overlooked. When you are communicating, especially to someone who is difficult for you, pay attention to how you feel. If you are upset, the odds are that the tone is going to come through in your message. Take a moment to calm down. Notice how the other person looks and adjust.

If you are writing an email, stop and take a pause before you hit “send.” Get away from your keyboard if you are really upset. When you are calm, read back through the email and imagine someone else reading it. Revise as if you care about how that person feels.

I know that it can feel great to tell opposing counsel exactly how you feel about them. Remember that this feeling doesn’t last long nearly as long as the consequences of your words. Paying attention to the emotion that comes through with your language is not taking it easy on the other side, so much as it is about maintaining your power to live your values.

3. Avoid character judgments.

Sometimes character is in issue for lawyers, but only in very rare situations. Even when it is relevant to a case, the character of the opposing party may not be relevant to most of your discussions. Look out for judgments leaching out that may come in phrases like “should”, “ought” or adjectives about a person’s character.

Not only can you sometimes be wrong about people, but also the judgments almost always put people on the defensive and lead to fights. Whether you respect someone’s opinion or not, a harsh judgment never feels good and makes even the best of us feel like we have to defend our own honor.

So, as tempting at it may be, avoid scolding an attorney for not counseling their clients properly or telling them that they don’t understand the “kind of person” their client is. Even if it is true, it’s not helpful and is unlikely to lead to anything good for you or your client.

4. Don’t engage in emotional warfare.

It still boggles my mind, but I still encounter lawyers who think they can scare other lawyers into submission. My dear esteemed colleagues, this doesn’t work. Yelling doesn’t make you sound tough; it makes you sound out of control. Making comments that you have “never agreed” to certain contract language isn’t legal analysis. Instead, it’s a manipulative tactic meant to make to shame the other side to coerce them into accepting your language.

I know this is a hard lesson to learn but lawyers can’t control opposing counsel with force of will alone. State your position. Provide good reasons for it, be clear about your best alternative option, and many times you will get good results. If you try to use your emotions to push the other side around, though, you will wear yourself out, waste precious resources, and create hostile relationships with opposing counsel.

5. Avoid tit for tat.

The last rule is the most annoying but probably the most essential. If other lawyers break all the rules stated above, it doesn’t mean you should. By this, I don’t suggest that you should always ignore the behavior without reproach. Instead, I think it is within your rights to tell opposing counsel if their comments are irrelevant, unproductive, or even harmful. You can and should set boundaries and, in more extreme cases, enforce them with judicial intervention.

But you can do those things by refocusing on the relevant issues, noting and respecting the emotions involved, and avoiding the character attacks and judgments that lead to more fights. On the times when I have been ablet to do this, I have always felt empowered that I could stick to my values instead of letting my actions be dictated by someone else. Avoiding shame or blame as retaliation isn’t merely ignoring bad behavior, but is instead a conscious choice to use ethical and effective communication.

Like I said, these steps are simple but not easy. They are small adjustments you can make to your communications to do less harm. While I hope all lawyers consider the impact that their words may have on opposing counsel’s mental health, my experience has been that the less I blame and shame others the better I feel.

Just in case you don’t believe that I know how hard it can be to stay calm in response to opposing counsel’s nasty communications, I made a meditation just for the occasion. Check out this Guided Meditation to help you deal with a Nasty Email here or on Insight Timer:

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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Insights from an Influencer? Yung Pueblo Will Change Your Mind

If I were to tell you that an Instagram influencer under 40 is a source of healing and wisdom for millions of people, you’d probably be skeptical. Instagram is the source of social comparison and makeup how-to videos. It’s not where people interested in meditation (like I am and you are) traditionally go to find wisdom.

Maybe some of that is true, but a big exception to this rule is Yung Pueblo (Diego Perez). Perez is a former community organizer and now famed writer who has published 3 books (with a fourth on the way) and has a following on Instagram exceeding two million. He healed himself through meditation after struggling with emotional turmoil, conflict, and addiction. Then he started sharing the insights he gleaned from the practice in short poem-like verses on Instagram.

At the time, this was almost unheard of on Instagram. That platform is filled with glossy and well-manicured photos of celebrities and curated video content meant to sell. Against this backdrop, though, you can almost see how someone bold enough to share only a white background and simple text might stand out.

And stand out they did. Yung Pueblo – writing for “young people” – got the attention of millions of followers and ultimately secured a book deal. How did he garner this attention? With insights. Pure and simple.

Insights? Maybe you’re reading this and you feel like it’s a let down but I assure you it’s not. I haven’t written much about insights on this blog because they are hard to describe. You can’t really meditate to get a particular insight. Instead, if you do vipassana (“insight”) meditation, you often just sit with very little structure and await the arrival of wisdom.

In many cases, these insights are so basic that you could easily mistake them as merely mundane or insignificant thoughts. But, when you slow down in the course of meditation, you realize that they are more than statements of the obvious. Instead, they are acknowledgments of fundamental truths that you may normally overlook in your busy daily life.

For instance, here’s this little gem from Perez’s first book Inward


you can love people and

simultaneously not allow

them to harm you.

Many of us logically know that this is true, but who doesn’t need a reminder about boundaries every now and then? I mean, how easy it is to get love confused with obligation or to not know how to balance self-compassion and compassion for others?

Or how about this understated little gem that is so easy to forget:

I am

at my



I am calm

Now that you’ve prepared a bit, try this one on for size:

self-love is doing the work

we need to be free


Again, these are hopefully obvious to most of us. But imagine you saw this on Instagram after scrolling for minutes to avoid thinking about some stressful situation at work. Then think how you would respond. In my imagination, I’d double tap and probably comment with something like a “100” emoji followed by a few flames.

Now imagine that you follow and have more of these statements showing up in your feed on a regular basis. Who couldn’t use reminders like these? Of course, we all can. Though meditation is a great way to see insights in our own lives, it never hurts to have some support from other wise people.

More recently, though, Yung Pueblo has shown he can offer even more than the modern-day equivalent of The Tao Te Ching. In Lighter, Yung Pueblo offers a work in full prose that is part memoir and part self-help. He shares his story as a first generation American after his parents emigrated from Ecuador. He details his struggle with addiction and how meditation helped him heal. And he even offers insights about how mindfulness can help us achieve positive social change and healing across the world.

This book was stylistically different than the others but it offered many of the same insights you’ll see in Yung Pueblo’s other works. In general, Yung Pueblo’s work doesn’t focus on meditation practice, but it gives you a clear idea about why you might want to meditate. He’s not a meditation teacher per se and doesn’t describe himself that way, but I wouldn’t call it a stretch to call him a teacher of insights.

This is not to say that I think you could read Yung Pueblo as a substitute for meditation practice. But his gentle reminders to let go of what you don’t need and pursue what really matters can sure help. Whether you meditate or not, Yung Pueblo offers a wisdom that is well beyond his years. For insights, healing, and calm clarity, find him on Instagram or check out his books:

  • Inward
  • Clarity & Connection
  • Lighter
  • The Way Forward (to be released October 10, 2023).

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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Writing About Your Darkest Moments Feels So Damn Good

Can you help me understand something? Like seriously. I need someone else to explain this to me slowly and in small words. I have had these times in my life. Experiences that are just awful. So awful, in fact, that I don’t even want to acknowledge them when they are happening.

Then I survive them and time passes. And I find myself not just journaling about them, but publishing pieces about them. Every time I do this, it scares me. Every time, I think “This is going to be the last straw. This is going to be the one where people say I have gone too far.” But that last straw never seems to come.

Instead, what happens is that I feel good. Damn good. So damn good that I repeat the cycle again. What is this? Can you help me identify this phenomenon?

Case in point. I just published an article for Above the Law – one of the most well read legal blogs on the internet. The topic of my article was loneliness. While a common affliction these days, especially for lawyers who rate themselves as the loneliest of professions, loneliness also commonly induces shame.

This was true for me. I was so ashamed of my own loneliness that it took me years and a bout with postpartum depression to start to face it. Ultimately, my meditation practice forced me to reckon with it because sitting still without distraction made me unable to look away. As I learned, this pain was worth it because facing the problem eventually helped me address it.

But at the time, the idea of saying to myself “I have no friends” was too painful to bear. Fast forward ten years, and I decided to tell the internet about it. The weird thing is that I don’t feel ashamed anymore. I feel fantastic. What gives?

Now, you would be correct to point out that the response from my community has been heartening. I received nothing but positive comments and messages in response to my post. One contact on LinkedIn even offered to be my friend and a legal scholar of ethics dubbed me the Lawyer of the Week for my post.

Certainly, seeing the reality of what people really think juxtaposed against the tragedy of shame playing out in our minds can help us get perspective. But this isn’t a one-off scenario. At this point, this is a pattern for me.

I have written about my experience with postpartum depression, and my struggle with alcohol during the pandemic, and my fear of networking, and my challenges with anger management. All of these things in the moment made me feel deeply ashamed. Writing about all of them made me feel great.

And, though I got similarly positive responses to those posts, the great feelings happened before any public response. The good feelings started when I decided to write. They climaxed when I wrote and cried my way through the editing process. And they continued as I hit send or publish on the piece.

So what are these great feelings? If I had to offer one word, I would call it self-acceptance. Writing about our past experiences forces us to get clear about them. It forces us to recall what happened, acknowledge all the angst and fear there, and not look away.

In general, the form of story telling also calls on us to provide a narrative structure. It’s not enough to just say what we experienced; we next have to say where it took us and what we learned. That means we have to figure out the meaning of the experience.

I have read that writing about a traumatic experience can help us process it. My lived experience tells me this is true. I don’t know of any research that says publishing your work has any added benefits, but I have felt them myself.

When I have published the pieces about my dark moments, it’s like self-acceptance on steroids. I know that some people may judge me. I know that some people may criticize. I publish anyway. Usually, I have been motivated to do so because I know that I am not alone in dealing with the issue. For example, all of the dark experiences I have shared (depression, alcohol, loneliness, imposter syndrome) are things lawyers commonly face.

But when I share my story with these experiences, I highlight my story and take the risk that some might not understand. When I do, I remember how much of my life was spent tip-toeing around people who might not get me and I say to myself “not anymore.”

So perhaps I have figured this out on my own. Writing about dark moments in life isn’t without pain or risk, but it feels damn good. It feels good to acknowledge your own experience and understand what it means. It feels good to own your story no matter what people might think.

Justice Louis D. Brandeis (the namesake for my law school) famously said “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” He wasn’t talking about mental health here but the saying still applies. If you are struggling with dark moments, try bringing in some light. Talk it out, write it out, share it with those you trust. Your story matters and acknowledging it can feel damn good.

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 Overthinking Lawyers Will Love Noting Practice

Founder’s Note: This is the blog’s 150th post and somehow I managed to publish it on World Mindfulness Day and have a new meditation to share too. Sometimes little ideas you have grow and sometimes things work out. Thanks to all of the blog’s readers, followers, contributors, and friends.

If you try meditation practice long enough, you are bound to encounter the practice of “noting.” With this practice, you pick a focal point (most commonly the breath though any focal point would do). Then when a distraction arises, you simply note it and and return to the focal point.

In many cases, the instruction to note generally means to briefly identify the distraction and let it go. For example, you might be instructed to categorize the experience as either a thought, emotion, sensation, sound, or mental scene. Though many of us may be familiar with this practice, we may not always know why it’s a good one to do. That’s what this blog post will address.

What Is Noting Practice?

Noting is a mindfulness practice. Like breath practice, noting will help you cultivate awareness and focus. It can also help you cultivate self-compassion as you manage the inevitable frustration that may arise with meditation. Noting, however, offers something more too.

With noting, the act of categorizing mental experiences may help you recognize mental experiences for what they are. For example, anyone who has meditated even once knows that it is not always easy to differentiate awareness of your breathing from thinking about your breathing.

Similarly, it can be hard to realize that you are experiencing a memory or fantasy about the future when you are in it. Once you can get outside of the mental images or thoughts, it can be easy to acknowledge their unreality or challenge their logic. But, when you are absorbed by the thought or scene or sensation or emotion, your ability to manage the situation is much harder.

Noting Practice Can Help You Manage Thoughts.

Noting practices the skill of recognizing when you are having an inner experience and zooming out from it. By looking for and categorizing inner experiences, you can note them without getting sucked into the details. In other words, noting helps you practice seeing a trap for your attention and stepping around it.

In this way, noting is different from self-analysis. It is not seeing a thought and applying more thought to ask why the thought pattern occurs. Instead, the practice is simply note it as a “thought” and then let it go. You avoid the juicy details of the story underlying the thought and you focus instead on the reality that the story is one totally of your mind’s own making.

This is not to say that all of your thoughts are bad or wrong. Thinking and thoughts aren’t inherently bad. The problem that many of us encounter, however, is that we aren’t usually aware when we are thinking. As such, we often assume that our thoughts are correct and helpful. When we look at thoughts critically, though, we are bound to see that some are based on incomplete information, affected by our emotions, or infused with biases.

Any lawyer reading this probably knows why this is an essential skill. We think so much in our jobs that it can be a challenge to stop thinking. If, like me, you have ever struggled with overthinking, learning to just see that you are thinking can be a benefit in and of itself.

Noting Practice Can Help Manage Overwhelm.

The other thing that is helpful about noting practice is that it can separate aspects of our inner experience. Life does not send us experiences in neatly labeled and clearly delineated boxes. To the contrary, we can be inundated with thoughts, emotions, and sensory information all at once.

The cool thing about attention, though, is that it can really only focus on one thing at a time. So, even if you are inundated with a slew of inner experiences at once, your mind can focus on just one. In daily life, this may be hard to see because things may happen so rapidly. With meditation, though, we can slow things down and take experiences one by one.

Over time, this can help us build inner resources for dealing with difficult situations. We may notice a challenging sensation caused by emotion and then see that our thoughts are starting to spiral. We can internally “note” the situation and choose to use an inner resource to maintain steadiness.


Am I saying that noting practice should become a mainstay of your practice? Probably not, but it is one to try because noting is a good skill to keep sharp. I recommend trying the practice out a few times to learn and implement the strategy. Once the skill of noting is developed, you can do it occasionally to keep the skill sharp.

Even if you don’t practice noting regularly, you can use the strategy of noting in your life to catch yourself in rumination or bring nonjudgmental awareness to physical sensations. This is where the benefits of noting practice can really pay off.

If you want to give noting practice a try, check out our new Noting Practice Guided Meditation 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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Come Hang Out with the Mindfulness in Law Society

Over the years, my networking approach has generally not been a sophisticated one. I join things and show up and eventually someone encourages me to get more involved. There have been times when I have declined opportunities, but I have said “sure” far more often. I’ll admit that I have sometimes found myself exasperated and been forced to scale back. In general, though, this openness has served me very well.

To my great satisfaction, this pattern repeated itself again with the Mindfulness in Law Society. I have been a member of this group for several years, but have not been heavily involved until recently. A few years ago, a fellow lawyer reached out and asked me to lead a meditation for a young lawyers program for the American Bar Association. As it turns out, that lawyer, Christina Sava, is also involved with MILS.

She reached out again to see if I’d be interested in joining the roster of teachers for the twice weekly guided meditations that MILS offers. This was an easy “sure” but I added something more. I checked out the local chapters for MILS and saw none in Kentucky or Ohio. Since I am already active with wellness committees for my state and local bars here, I decided to start a local chapter for MILS in the Greater Cincinnati Area.

So, what I am I asking of you? Nothing crazy; maybe just to consider my unsophisticated networking approach of showing up. The virtual sits for MILS are held twice weekly, on Mondays at 3 PM EST and Wednesdays at 5 PM. They are open to anyone in the legal profession (which is defined broadly and includes students and paralegals).

In addition, people from across and outside of the United States participate in the virtual sits. I have stressed the value of meditation in a group before and I will say it again: it helps. Virtual groups are not nearly the same as in-person groups but they are far better than no group at all. I will be guiding on the 2nd Monday at 3 PM EST and the 3rd Wednesday at 5 PM EST, so come and hang out.

And, if you are in the Cincinnati area, interested in mindfulness, and in the legal profession, please reach out via email or on LinkedIn if you would like to help form and launch the chapter. You don’t have to be a meditation teacher or even an experienced meditator. Someone who cares about mental health in the legal profession is all we need.

I know we are all too busy. I also know that it’s hard to show up with a group of people you don’t know. To find a meditation community, though, that’s often the only choice. As hard as it can be to work up the courage, it’s not a bad thing. Meeting new people and joining new groups is a great way to network, build community, and learn mindfulness. Now, it seems I am the person encouraging you to get more involved. All you have to do is say “sure.”

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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Supported Fish Pose with Self-Kindness Guided Meditation

It’s a long holiday weekend. If you’re lucky, that means some extra time for rest and relaxation and enjoying the last days of summer. Some of us have no trouble resting when we get the chance, but if you are anything like me it can be a struggle.

It’s really easy to get caught in habits, whether they support the life we want or not. For lawyers, the habit that can impede quality rest is that of being busy. We have jam-packed schedules, numerous obligations, and full lives. This can make it hard to spot the nooks and crannies in our schedule for ease and rest and take advantage of them when they come.

The other problem for lawyers, of course, is that even physical rest can feel uncomfortable because our minds don’t stop. As a long-time overthinker, I know that this struggle is very real.

So what’s my answer? First, it is important to learn to just stop and take a few minutes for oneself. Second, though, it helps a lot to honor and connect with the body. In general, it’s the quickest way to feel better both physically and mentally. Third, I really like playing with my mindfulness practice to find what works just for me. As someone trained to teach meditation, yoga, and compassion, this has often meant combining practices.

I used all of these ideas in the new guided meditation I am offering today. In the practice, there is a guided reflection on rest and it’s role in our lives. This practice is not merely a mental exercise but also incorporates a classic restorative yoga pose: supported fish to help the body relax and rest. And third, it’s certainly a playful exploration of the intersection between meditation and yoga.

Labor Day is about honoring the American worker with a day of rest. I’m sharing this meditation with you today as an additional support in your quest to rest this long weekend. If you want to try it out, check it out here or on the YouTube channel.

If you like this practice and want another, you might check out my most popular video, the Legs Up the Wall Guided Meditation too. This one uses another classic restorative yoga pose: legs up the wall. You can use a cushion to support your back and hips but in truth no props are required at all. This meditation teaches a variety of ways to focus on the breath so you can learn while you rest.

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: 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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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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When It Comes to Mindfulness for Lawyers, Self-Discipline Is Overrated

As you might imagine, I am a disciplined person. I’m a lawyer. I meditate regularly. I work out every day. And I have managed to keep this blog going for nearly three years. Strangely, though, I have not written a single post extolling the virtues of discipline when it comes to meditation.

I have written about the value of habits and made it clear that consistency in mindfulness practice is important to obtain benefits. I have talked about the fact that we can’t expect to build skills without learning to handle some discomfort. And I have agreed that we can’t expect to find time – but have to make time – for the things we love.

Even so, I have not outright talked about discipline itself. Why? It’s not that I don’t think discipline has a place in mindfulness practice or in life. Far from it. In fact, I love the thrill of building things over time through daily work and commitment. It’s the way I have built my law practice, mindfulness practice, this blog, and wrote my book.

To be sure, discipline is important. I don’t talk about it on this blog much, however, because this blog is directed at lawyers and professionals. Most lawyers and professionals have plenty of self-discipline. In general, my readers are motivated, self-directed, and hard-working. Therefore, if I wrote frequently about self-discipline, I would be preaching to the choir.

In doing so, I would not be offering what I think my audience really needs. Many of us who start exploring mindfulness do so because we want change or maybe balance. Quite often, when we start to seek like this, we have no clue what we really need. We start looking and we hope a new practice might expand our horizons.

You know what’s easy to do when you start a new practice? You bring your old mindset and mental habits along. So it goes with lawyers who start exploring mindfulness by first relying on their self-discipline. Over the years, most of us have fine-tuned our self-discipline muscles so well that we rely on willpower and muscling through in almost every pastime we take up. If we are honest with ourselves, we may even notice it showing up in our personal lives with the people we hold most dear.

If change is our goal, this doesn’t really make sense. And, if balance is the object, why would we keep leaning so heavily on a skillset that is already so robust? Now you may be seeing my point. This is why I don’t talk a lot about self-discipline. You have self-discipline. You have tons of it. Trust me.

Don’t try to tell me you don’t just because you haven’t been able to make meditation a habit yet. Based on my experience meditating for a decade and teaching mindfulness for five years, too much self-discipline is the impediment—and not the key—to a long-term meditation practice for many lawyers.

You read that right the first time but go back and read the preceding line again if you don’t believe me. Lawyers and professionals have loads of self-discipline. They explore mindfulness and meditation because they are looking for something else. They are looking for a new way of living life and practicing law.

This way of life doesn’t throw self-discipline out the window. Instead, what mindfulness can do for lawyers is counterbalance their self-discipline with wisdom, self-compassion, real honest to goodness rest, and a newfound connection to their bodies and emotions. Sure, to find these things, some level of self-discipline is needed but most lawyers and professionals have more than they need to get started with and maintain a mindfulness practice.

By now, though, your lawyer brain may be kicking in and you may be thinking that I’m full of it because isn’t deciding to learn a new skill and committing to it long enough to really try it out discipline? Sure, some of it is discipline. As I said, discipline is involved. But it’s not the most important thing you need to maintain practice.

Do you know why? One reason is that self-discipline (willpower) gets tired. It is easily worn out. That’s why people often struggle to get motivated to meditate. Because sticking to a plan takes energy and energy quickly wears out. This is why other human traits are more important for a solid meditation practice. These include an open mind, courage to face pieces of yourself you have long overlooked, and self-compassion.

Next you may be wondering why I bring this up at all? Why would I devote a blog post to tell you what you don’t need to start or keep meditating? I wrote this post because discipline or the alleged lack thereof is what many lawyers complain about when they tell me that they struggle to meditate. In reality, I don’t believe a lack of discipline is really the issue.  

Instead, self-judgment and unrealistic expectations about a how a practice is “supposed” to be are more often the real culprit. Since discipline alone can’t be relied on to get you to the cushion or yoga mat, why not try something else instead? How about curiosity? Or kindness? What about hope for a better life or deeper connections with yourself and others? These are the real reasons many lawyers start meditating in the first place even if they don’t know it when they start.

Lawyers don’t start meditating to cultivate more discipline because they don’t need more discipline. They explore mindfulness in pursuit of a happier life with more freedom, deeper connections, and less stress. If this is your aim with meditation, then consider it as an opportunity to practice new skills and cultivate new habits. You get plenty of practice with self-discipline in your daily life. For greater peace, balance, and ease, let go of your grip on self-discipline a little bit and consider practicing skills like patience, self-kindness, the capacity to rest, and joy in your meditation practice instead.  

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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