Archive for December, 2014

Each semester I experience a low at the end.  It’s after exams are over.  It’s after my final papers and projects are turned in or left at a resting place until after the holiday break.  And it always catches me off-guard.

Screenshot 2014-12-24 16.13.32This “it” — the low — seems like a consequence of something I struggle with: trying so hard because nothing feels like enough and then being left with a feeling almost like suspended animation.  There is no more I need to do but the need to be doing remains.

I’m sure this is not specific to me as a student, as many if not most of us are consumed by feelings that beg us for productivity all the time.  Yet there is something to being a student that seems to intensify such a condition, especially a law student.  And having an adhd brain may not help.  But what is this low really about?  Or, how can I rebound from it more skillfully?

What I’ve realized is that when this feeling comes it is accompanied by a sense that I cannot breath fully into my heart.  I cannot bring my breath fully into the chest cavity where my heart chakra (if this is language that works for you) dwells.  I  literally have trouble lifting my heart.

So this year, instead of trying to force my heart back open I am trying something new.  I am practicing being okay with how I’m feeling and choosing to trust that my heart will open back up when it’s time, when I am fully ready for more to come in.  I am practicing yoga.  I am spending time with friends and family.  I am just hanging out and watching my feelings shift versus trying to control them.  It is a practice of mindfulness I suppose.  I am allowing my heart to be closed for renovation.  It is the most I can “do” without “doing” anything at all.  Cheers to taking a break from Post-Exam Land, ya’ll…

This is a column that was published in the CT Post back in 2009.  It was written by a journalist friend of mine who covered the Capitol Building, someone I had extensive chats with about issues of justice, especially for juveniles.  He came up with the idea of having a legislative office of Holistic Thinking.  Ironic in a way to envision us siloing holistic thought, but an outstanding idea at the same time…  Take a moment to read.  This concept could be relevant no matter what the policy issue at hand.

Office of Holistic Thinking

See below to watch my presentation live or check out the powerpoint version below…

Check out this little riff on the role of laughter in mindfulness & a quick tip on how to connect with your sense of humor in times of stress…  

This past week or so has been intense.  Still feeling the aftermath of the Ferguson decision and reeling from the revelation of the Eric Garner grand jury verdict.  Still experiencing woe and frustration and even exhilaration as a student who is politically active on the issues of race and justice and democracy.  Struggling with what it means to organize effectively, struggling to maintain my own sense of peace and clarity as I engage in this work, so that what I am offering are tools for peace and not for conflict.  And yet, how to stay sufficiently on guard?  How to stay sufficiently critical and unrelenting in the quest for equality, and for a system that helps put people and communities back together, rather than tear them apart.  Screenshot 2014-12-11 09.53.54

My take is that it starts within us as individuals, who are able to provide and receive support from others.  But again, it starts with us.  It starts with the kinds of thought processes we consciously or unconsciously engage in.  And that can lead to right action.  But change must start from here first.  Awareness of our own consciousness.  Then awareness of outward, physical habits.  Then awareness of effects, and the ways that shifting our consciousness can spur change within our own cognitive processes.  Then that change within us can evoke something from others.  Something in the ways that others speak or act.  Ways that others engage with us.  And from that, change in terms of how we treat one another and empower one another to perceive, to cognitively process, and to act, differently.

I am excited to share a post that a friend and colleague in the movement towards greater freedom — spiritually and thus socially/politically — has forwarded on to me.  It was published today on the Huffington Post and describes a study recently conducted showing a connection between mindfulness practices and the capacity to dissolve or at least begin shifting what scientists and criminal justice advocates call “implicit bias.”

I often hear other law students complain because they do not “buy” the implicit bias tests one can take — “it must be flawed” is the favorite response I’ve heard.  But I’ve taken this test, and try as I might to fight it, there is an implicit bias there that makes me more easily see white folks as safe and smart and happy and good and see people of color as the opposite.  Now, I’m not a big fat racist, that is not what the test says.  But I am “moderately” racist.  The thing we need to remember is that the fact that we (most if not all of us) have an implicit or unconscious racial bias does not mean that our bias cannot change.  What it means is that we need other mechanisms for changing our consciousness than the surface level conversation that has occupied most of our energy in race relations in previous decades.  It cannot rest simply on court decisions either, or on our faith that the justice system will address these biases adequately over time.  Clearly, as recent grand jury cases show, this is not the case.

What we need are techniques that enable us to interrogate our own consciousness, our own internal frame of mind in a way that allows us to fundamentally change our brains, and the bias that pervades our (racist) ways of viewing ourselves and others.  The study just published tells us that mindfulness practices can assist with that.  The engagement of meditation in order to gain a more macro, detached perception of our inner (cognitive) processes is what enables us to be engaged learners in a more traditional educational/pedagogical sense, and it is what allows us to learn more about our own prejudices — and CHANGE them…

I am reminded of the lesson that stillness brings action for two reasons right now.

The first has to do with exams.  It has to do with allowing myself the rest I need to prepare mentally and emotionally for the roller coaster that is sitting in a windowless room for hours pouring every scrap of intellect you have into an assignment that feels removed from life and arbitrary yet so very crucial to the prospects of one’s future at the same time…  I have been practicing inner-listening like crazy.  I have been massaging my hands and feet like crazy.  I have been clearing internal space so that what must rise to the surface for the good of my academic standing can come.

The second has had to do with the recent grand jury verdicts that have come out of Ferguson, Missouri and New York City.  I have been hearing and reading the fear and agony these decisions are causing people of color in all of our communities.  And I have been voicing my own feelings of fear and utter sadness to others I go to school with — other aspiring lawyers.

Let us not confused silence with stillness, by the way.  Stillness has to do with deep listening, to our own pain and that of others.  Stillness has to do with humility — with the ability to let feelings like loss of control fill our senses and not repress them, but allow their brunt to be pushed upon our most visceral senses.  For this seems to be where the seeds of real justice are planted.  I imagine we, citizens of this country, are all reaching up right now.  Scrambling with hands and fingers clawing at the ground above us so we may break through the dirt and find light.  Find the ground where those seeds are planted and begin to cultivate justice that does not demand our patronage from the dark.  Again, justice from a place of light.  Justice from a communal, collective sense of truth.  One born from discourse and genuine democratic inquiry — aka the strength and the freedom to outwardly proclaim when people’s rights have been violated, or where people’s rights have been disregarded as if they do not exist at all.

My stillness is my contemplation of these images and of these fears.  My action comes from that space.  In work and in life.  For myself and for the health, for the integrity, of our world.