Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Wow, even WordPress’ Dashboard is different now that I’m back attempting to blog…

I am eating Trader Joe’s Thai Chili almonds over a 9 oz glass of Chardonnay at the Las Vegas Airport.  Truth.  So to speak 😉  It’s a far cry from where I was months ago when blogging about being an integrative law student was one of the lifelines I had holding me in check as I anxiously completed and then emerged from the nightmarish cocoon of law school.

The short story?  Ha.  I’ll try.

Screenshot 2015-03-16 03.17.44

It started last spring when I began meditating on my intentions and actively began envisioning how I could manage to make a decent living/improve my circumstances financially (and this definitely falls under the umbrella of “self-care” by the way).  I kept asking myself, almost in a chant, almost like a mantra: How am I going to advocate for policies I believe in AND support myself economically?  A quarter of a million dollars in educational debt I was (and am, thank you).  But beyond the debt, what kind of opportunity was I working on manifesting for myself?  What would be the texture of the “work” I would do in the world?  My goal has always been and continues to be service, making the world a better place — more specifically, helping to facilitate healing in the world, not war, not divisiveness, not convenience or expediency over thoughtfulness and integrity and cogency — not without connection between what feels to me, and to others, like what’s REAL for people and what’s IMAGINED TO BE REALITY for policy makers.  Hmm…  What does all of that mean?  And how does one even purport to hope to “manifest” such a proposition?

Well, I’m not great at telling stories in a linear fashion.  And although our lives creep by in years, which is a chronological measure of life lived, I’m not sure the actual telling of our life stories comport with this version of “reality”.  With that said (yes, you lawyers out there, consider this a disclaimer of sorts), I’d like to make this post the first in what will probably become sort of a collage depicting from various angles of time, experience and emotion what my journey since finishing law school has been and what I am projecting for it into the future…  This has basically been how a lot of HolisticToolKit.com has chronicled my path, but moving forward, I just thought I’d clarify that yes, this is my story.  And yet, no, it is probably not easy to follow.  LOL.  Rather, it’s something I guess I’d like to invite you, my dear reader, into.  That perhaps, is actually the purpose of this post.

I invite you to join me as I plunge into even deeper waters of finding out how law and an holistic mind, body and spirit can find not just overlap but a place of belonging in the world of social justice, in the world of corporate finance, and part and parcel for me, is how this occurs in the legal cannabis space…  That is where my journey has brought me and my triumphs, bitter failures and intimate gleanings from it will be what I write about for the next several years.

If you are down to share this journey with me in any way — by reading random blog posts, sharing them, commenting on them, seeing my posts on social media & offering a little smile even if all you dip into the waters of this crazy world of HolisticToolKit.com is a toenail — it is all good.  In the words of teachers and friends and mentors and collaborators I have come to love deeply, these sentences and paragraphs are being constructed out of the energy of solidarity, affection and a fierceness focused on facilitating critical reflection, compassionate acceptance, radical honesty, vulnerability as it bleeds into strength and, always, more love.

Namaste and more about the cannabis industry itself next time.

This post is in honor of my friend and mentor J. Kim Wright.  Her thoughts have been posted in this blog before.  Today though, I offer her words not just as inspiration, but as a complementary piece in the puzzle I am working on conveying through HolisticToolKit.  This puzzle is the whole of our justice system, the whole of our lives as human beings who must organize themselves somehow in order to survive.  Kim’s vision is shared below as a means of illustrating what the integration of mindfulness into our concept of justice can mean, what it can translate to in the lives of real people.  It is about social change.  It is about peace.  And leaving fear, leaving attachment to the past, behind. Many thanks to Kim for sharing her view of what the field of law may become and for including HolisticToolKit’s take on what legal education can become… Screenshot 2015-06-15 17.24.23

Second little talk of mine about the relationship between mindfulness and justice.  One leads to the other…

This post represents a departure for me.  Most obviously, this is my first post since having officially graduated.  But it is also the first of a series of “conversations” I am beginning to engage in with law professors (from across the U.S. & the world).  Sometimes it will be presented in the form of actual dialogues, captured in real-time, mediated through remote devices.  Sometimes it will actually be in person.  And sometimes, often I expect, it will be in the form of responses I have to work of these profs, or reflections they have put into the world, ON their work.  On teaching.  On “practice.”  On “the law.”

I’ve chosen to begin this series by responding to a post recently published by Debbie Sanders of barexammaster.com.  Debbie’s personal narrative as far as what brought her to this field and how she currently contributes to it is inspiring.  But moreover, her blog posts are powerful.  They revolve around something seemingly dry and banal — bar exam prep.  And yet, what she offers is INSIGHT.  What she offers is TRUTH.  It is not stuff you need to empirically validate.  It is not stuff you need to commission study after study to prove or refute.  And that’s because what she says “rings true.”  You can FEEL it.

The post that turned me on to Debbie is entitled An Open Question to Recent Law School Graduates: Why are you taking the bar exam?  In it, the author reflects on her own journey to and through law school as well as the bar exam by noting: “the idea that some students did not elect their pursuit of a law degree, not, at least from some personal independent passion, was jarring to me.”  Yes!  Preach!  That is what the voice inside MY head shouted as I read this.  Tell it, because Lord knows that shit has plagued me since I began this journey.

In fact, the idea that not everyone came to law school in order to “fight” for justice was hard for me, on an emotional level, to deal with throughout my career as a student.  It triggered feelings in me of being “different,” of anger because how dare anyone not appreciate the social (or even spiritual) privilege of having their dharma turn into a career as powerful as one in the field of law?  What kind of a field was I even intending to enter?  What kind of cottage industry was law school if so many seemingly disaffected youth could be enlisting in these ranks with so little sense of political orientation or purpose?  What kind of a sham or cult had I finally succumbed to joining?  And that’s not even hitting on the pedagogical issues I have had with the status quo in legal education.

But I digress — what else has Debbie to say?  Well, point #2 of hers that I’ve globbed onto is this: “[E]veryone’s struggle is real. There is no qualitative difference between yearning for entry into an otherwise elusive “club” or pining for liberation from its confines. Everyone’s oppressor is real to them. What the struggle means to bar exam preparation is that anyone wrestling with why they are taking the exam will suffer in a way greater than the population of bar takers who want the end result. In that sense, the self-compelled student is the more privileged.”  Amen, lady.  That is what I’ve been sayin!!  To wit:

If I could spare a student from unnecessary pain at the threshold of the exam, I would ask them: “Why are you taking the bar exam?” If they cannot conjure any authentic response, I encourage them to reconsider, maybe not forever, but until there’s some clarity about the impetus.

Of course I appreciate this line of inquiry, as it is the very line I have found myself engaging in over the course of the past couple months.  But I also appreciate it because this is a BRAVE thing to suggest to students that they do.  It requires them to introspect.  It requires them to look within and conjure up the most honest responses they can.  And, it requires them to listen to themselves.  It requires them to act in accordance with what their authentic selves are seeking.  It requires them to, in the words of my yoga teacher Rolf Gates, who quotes the word of the gifted teacher Eric Schiffman (and before that Swami Yogananda), step more fully into the truth of who they are.  It requires them to lead THEMSELVES.  And insodoing, in requires them to be leaders in the field, whether they become barred lawyers or not.

See http://barexammaster.com for Debbie’s full post & comment on either of our sites if you feel so moved…

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

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.

Thanks to Babak Zarin for sharing his Elon Law Capstone from the spring of 2013 — it will give you a sense of what the research is on wellness (or lack of wellness) in law school AND an example of what YOU can DO about it!!   http://www.slideshare.net/HolisticToolKit/b-zarin-wellness-capstone-41159448Screenshot 2014-11-05 09.46.20

I was recently traveling to a friend’s wedding and got into conversation with some guy in the airport.  I’m not sure when it started, but apparently I’ve gained confidence in this whole talking-about-law-in-an-holistic-way thing (some affectionately call this an elevator speech).  I say this because after the flight when that guy and I exchanged goodbyes he handed me the Bloomberg Businessweek he’d been reading and referred me to an article, “Rethinking the World’s Best Schools.”  It was a feature piece profiling the renowned principal of a public Shanghai high school.

http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-09-24/chinas-education-reform-push-extends-to-shanghais-top-schools

Principal Qiu is apparently a living a legend in China.  This is due to the phenomenal results he cultivates from faculty and students and the fact that he is attempting to change the very game he’s excelled at as an educator and principal.

To provide a little context, the article explains that while China’s suicide rate overall has been declining,

youth suicides have been climbing.  There are roughly 250,000 suicides and 2 million attempts per year, and the second-most vulnerable age group (after elderly and rural women) is 15- to 34-year-olds.”

Research has been published pegging 90 percent of urban Chinese students as being nearsighted by the end of high school.

Principal Qiu wants to maintain the academic results his students get already, but foster a more nurturing environment for, as he puts it, the ‘spirit of the mind.’  This is a major shift to put it mildly from the traditional Chinese classroom of the twenty-first century.  What we are talking about is a revolutionary thought: that creativity and individualism and diversity of learning styles and opportunities for expression are aspects of education that can bolster students’ performance on traditional types of exams, if they are given the support for these ways of approaching their learning.

The type of change that Principle Qui is advocating for is what I argue we need in legal education.  It’s about thinking holistically and allowing an artist’s spirit to be channeled through even the driest of material.  It’s about understanding and honoring our sense of humanity, and what makes each one of us unique.

A friend of mine just re-posted an article via Facebook called 25 Struggles Only ENFPs Will Understand — it’s put out by a blog called Thought Catalogue and, despite much skepticism of tests that “objectively” discern the vicissitudes of our personalities, I can’t deny these folks are on to something.

http://thoughtcatalog.com/heidi-priebe/2014/09/25-struggles-only-enfps-will-understand/

At my law school we have a leadership program that, up until now anyway, has largely been built around the use of personality types referred to in this article.  It’s Myers-Briggs to be precise (although there are a couple more we’ve taken that when I say their names they sound like venereal diseases — examples being a “FIRO – B” — I mean, really, wtf??)

Seriously though, I think the bad taste I developed for these tests stems at least partially from an experience I had just out of college.  A woman, whom I later found to be a staunch Republican of the Ayn Rand AND George Bush Jr. variety, literally pointed her finger at me on the street one day and said, “I see it!  Totally corporate, totally artistic!”  She then convinced me to come in for what would be two weeks of interviews enroute to my first ever salaried position.

I never even got to the point of being paid a real salary, as my probationary period as a light/industrial temp recruiter was, simply put, short lived.  I was told my footsteps weren’t “heavy enough.”  Not to mention it went quite unappreciated when I tried to give education and career consulting to some of the temp agency’s applicants (very poor folks whose job it essentially was to call us every day and inquire if we had any back-breaking work for extremely low pay that they could do).

I should have seen it coming, really.  I mean, when you take a personality test and your about-to-be employer’s secretary calls to say they need you to re-take the test because the results, basically, indicate that you have multiple personalities, well, it shouldn’t be too hard to see that you might not fit into the culture of that particular workplace…

I distinctly remember re-taking that test and seeing exactly where they wanted me to answer differently because it’s what followed, according to their logic, from the answer I gave in the previous question.  It was that ridiculous.

So when I got to law school and was asked to do the same kind of little dance, it felt pretty forced.  I felt uncomfortable. And pretty dubious of how well this sort of testing can steer us in terms of (effective) leadership development.

Alas, I took all my tests.  I listened to their lectures.  And here’s what I’ve learned —

1 – It’s okay to be “sensitive” and actively value compassion, even when you are studying (and I believe practicing) law.

2 – It IS harder to be sensitive and compassionate and function in the legal world, but it is also better!  It is what our system (and the world) needs.

3 – The same can be said for creativity and optimism.

4 – A persisting obstacle is the feeling of isolation that can come when what gives you energy is to be with people, but what allows you to work productively on legal problems requires being, or feeling, alone.  It’s a toughie…

5 – Self-care practices are key.  Especially if you are someone who is inclined towards feeling joy and gratitude even for the smallest of things, giving space for yourself to experience those things, even while you are “working” is ESSENTIAL.  Otherwise, you risk losing what feels most important to you on a fundamental level every time you engage in the level of focus that the study and/or practice of law requires.

6 – Because we are sensitive, creative people, innovating self-care practices that fit our physical, mental and emotional needs is something we love to do!  It’s an opportunity to ‘think outside the box’ and push ourselves to find forms of expression that burst what could feel like a prison, wide open…

Here’s to finding our way as un-lawyerly personalities and please comment if you have thoughts or feelings to share!!

One of the things we explored at Omega’s holistic divorce workshop was the impact of our emotional intensity on decision-making.

It’s interesting, right?  The stereotype of a woman possessed by her emotions is that she’s hysterical, overcome by her feelings to the extent that all she can do is cry and scream and make waves.  What we practiced this weekend is maintaining touch with those feelings, AND being calm and serene so that we can begin to ride those emotions — surf those waves — rather than create more and more of them without any prospect of also feeling in control.

What does it mean to be in control?  That’s a lot of what this weekend was about figuring out.  Does it mean I have control over my partner?  Over our joint finances?  Over what the future holds for my children?  I’m not sure, but it seems like the answer is yes as well as no.  And here’s why —

IMG_0083We have control over our feelings in the moment, or we have the capacity to feel in control over our feelings in the moment.  Sorry if this sounds like a tautology, but in essence it is!  Our feelings start with generating a feeling of not being hurt, and then we can address the ways that others’ behavior may be impacting us.  For example, thanks to the participants in this workshop, we can imagine what it would feel like to be a woman who’s built her own business, or directly supported the efforts of her partner for decades, and then in one fell swoop, approach a precipice where, through legal channels, half or even more may now be washed away.  Suddenly what we’ve worked so hard for, or thought we were working hard for, is about to be lost.  Suddenly, the security we thought we were leaving for our children is in jeopardy.  And suddenly, the emotional safety we thought we had with another person has turned to dust.  So two questions: where and how does money fit into this (i.e. the sense of financial ‘security’), and how do our emotions play into the belief that what we are experiencing is limited to a condition of loss? In other words, what in this situation are we really losing?  Is it money?  Or is it a sense of power?  Moreover, at this point, isn’t leveraging our emotional intensity in a way that promotes an internal sense of security all the more important at this juncture of our lives?

Our lead facilitator, J. Kim Wright (http://jkimwright.com), offered a very simple graph for us to use as a guide and reminder of this.  In essence, our emotional intelligence is what enables us to know when we are feeling mistreated.  It is an essential aspect of our perceptive faculties and is an inherently powerful tool for understanding our needs.  But when the radar goes off and tells us something is wrong, we benefit from stopping to listen to that voice rather than go off the deep end by reacting outwardly to whatever appears in our agitated state to be responsible for our distress.  When we are at our highest intensity of feeling, it may have come from an accurate perception of trouble or injustice, but especially as women, we often allow ourselves to fly off the handle and respond from that place instead of using the information we were given in a moment of emotional intensity to gather our wits, step back, and respond strategically.

In general, the importance of using our emotional intelligence to bolster our capacity for power can’t be overstated.  And in the context of divorce, it’s crucial.  The exciting thing about this workshop is that it was a lawyer guiding participants through this idea.  And outside the confines of this workshop, this approach to considering and practicing law would have a lawyer facilitating conversations about this with her client.  That means a legal consultation would revolve around helping clients to be grounded, essentially, in their spiritual power before they labor to produce outcomes on paper.  It’s about taking responsibility for our feelings so that we can exercise control in a way that is balanced, and in line with the realities that others perceive in addition to the fear and pain we so easily attach to when the threat of loss feels like it’s about to overtake us.  It’s about thinking holistically.