Book review of The Anxious Lawyer

This book, subtitled “An 8-Week Guide to a Joyful and Satisfying Law Practice Through Mindfulness and Meditation,” was authored by Jeena Cho and Karen Gifford. This is an excellent book by two attorneys who have firsthand knowledge of the problems facing us and the fantastic possible rewards of practice.

Each chapter is to be read and practiced for one week; each ends with a way to cultivate or implement what was read, instructions on how to practice, and a Meditation Log to keep track of how and how much time you practiced that week.

The 8 weeks are broken down as follows: 1. Beginning to Meditate 2. Mindfulness 3. Clarity 4. Compassion Toward Others 5. Self-Compassion 6. Mantra Repetition 7. Heartfulness 8. Gratitude

“Meditation and its related practices can be part of an approach to a life and career that includes achievement, constructive engagement, expanding self-knowledge, and personal fulfillment.”

Common reasons for meditation are: “coping with stress or anxiety management, increasing focus and productivity, letting go of unwanted habits, dealing with difficult events, and seeking meaning and self-knowledge.”

The focus is on three basic meditative practices: Mindfulness-bringing our attention to what is happening in the moment; Metta-offering good wishes or “loving-kindness” to ourselves and others; and Mantra-focusing our attention by repeating a word or phrase.

The authors provide a general overview of the concepts behind meditation and related practices, the science behind them, and the nuts and bolts of cultivating a meditation practice through an eight-week self-guided program. It is a workbook so you must do the work as you read.

The key is “spending quality time with your own mind.” Start with “a simple breathing technique.” “The breath is: always in the present. . . a physical reminder and practical example of how all are connected . . . reminds us we don’t have to do everything.”

“Virtually every religion includes a practice that involves sitting quietly with the eyes closed or softly focused . . . may be called prayer, meditation, or some other type of contemplation, but all are designed to quiet the mind.”

A meditation log is at the end of each chapter where you record each time you meditate, the date, time of day and for how long, and record a few reflections on your meditation.

“Meditation is a way of getting to know yourself better and any transformation that meditation brings comes from that self-knowledge.”

Meditation puts you in better touch with what you want for your life. “Anything you decide to do as a result of that knowledge will be the result of your judgment and will reflect your values, temperament and preferences.”

A common introductory mindfulness practice is a simple body scan where you direct your attention to the physical sensations of various parts of your body, moving your tension slowly over your whole body-it is very relaxing.

Mindfulness describes the fundamental skill of meditation, which is paying attention to what is happening in the moment.

During mindfulness, you get a chance to see more clearly because you are not distracted by other things. The last moment is when your mind returns to awareness and is known as “the moment of choice” when you are simply aware of yourself and ask yourself to focus right here and now, known as “a moment of clarity.”

Mindfulness has also been described as “spirituality, commonness, or being nice, being a thoughtful person.” In this book, it means something very specific: “mindfulness is a particular state of mind, a way of being, a way to engage with the world. Present moment without judgment or preference.”

“Mindfulness is the practice of being fully engaged in being in our life instead of escaping to the past or the future or the future mindfulness.”

“Establishing a meditation practice brings with it a wide range of physical benefits including ability to lower blood pressure and improve heart health.” Its effect is well known by the American Heart Association. “Meditation has been used effectively to treat a variety of other disorders, including insomnia, social anxiety disorder, depression, chronic pain, eating disorders, and addiction.”

Choosing a mantra or deciding what mantra to use can be as simple or as complex as you like. The purpose of helping your mind settle by giving your mind something to do is not affected by the word or phrase you use. Just pick a word or phrase that is pleasant for you to work with.

Heartfulness is short for many attributes: “courage, strength, compassion, kindness, gratitude, and generosity.”

“In many Asian languages the word for mind and the word for heart are the same, so mindfulness could easily be called heartfulness.”

Many people finish an introductory course in meditation such as in this book feeling absolutely great. They have mastered basic techniques by practicing every day for 8 weeks. The first taste of clarity from using this practice can be intoxicating.

I could have pulled many other great quotes from this book, but my review would have run 25 pages.

This book focuses on lawyers engaging in meditation. It also helps us as human beings outside of any particular role we may play.

Some additional research links:

<https://www.mindandlife.org>

<http://www.gratefulness.org>

<http://contemplativeoutreach.org>

<http://dharmata.org>

The book concludes with 5 pages of notes which refer to articles in journals that contain a link to go to the entire article.

Author’s note: After reading this excellent book and practicing the exercises suggested, I received an email from Jenna Cho suggesting that I form or join a book club to work with other people through this unbelievably great book. As I was trying to find a book club, I received another email from her inviting me to sign up for a webcast CLE program. Yesterday was my first webcast and it was fantastic.

I highly recommend this book and its program.

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February 2017Volume 3Number 2PDF icon PDF version (for best printing)