Found this video on my computer after graduation. I must have filmed it in February or so of my 3L year. It’s about how to breath through the anxiety of uncertainty, which I am actually finding helpful to watch right now myself…  Mindfully moving through change somehow always feels relevant… especially when you aren’t sure what’s up for you next.

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…

Sometimes it can be challenging to make shifts in mindset and behavior patterns when we are in transtiion from one chapter of our lives into the next. After exams this semester, my final semester, it made sense to take a couple of days for quiet in the woods. I shot this video as soon as I got back in the hopes of giving myself a bridge to get back to the feelings of calmness & serenity I experienced while on retreat (camping). It’s a quick guided meditation to help ground us in “woods energy,” or feeling quiet and peaceful.  

Well, amidst finals (and this time is the last time…) I’ve been re-calibrating from an amazing trip.  It was four days spent at a Zen center just outside of San Francisco, essentially in the middle of a Redwood forest.  What for, you ask?  For inspiration, collaboration and re-generation.  My time was spent with around 30 lawyers and law students, all at different points in their lives and careers.  Not everyone is even studying law in a formal school environment.  These are out-there folks doing incredible things…  From conscious contracts to restorative justice to sharing law and mindfulness education, my sense of why I am entering this field and how I fit into it were strengthened through the community we all formed. One exercise we did had us rely on each other to provide personal & professional coaching.  After a guided meditation on what moves us in life — what is our power — and how we may be stuck or suffering in the process, I drew a picture.  This is what I shared with my group as a way of framing the inner-conflict I’ve experienced while in law school and when anticipating what it would be like to become a “real” lawyer.

IMG_1204As you can hopefully see, there are two images at play.  The first is a brain in a jar.  Think Krang from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (the diabolical brain — literally — whose mission was to take over the world).  If you require more imagery here go ahead & run a Google image search…  Or, check out my take on the theme of a being that feels stripped of its body and soul.  Mine is not so nefarious looking, but it is stark nonetheless.  Often, when I’ve studied for exams or especially first or second year, when I’ve needed to just keep cranking no matter how ‘out of my body’ I’ve felt, this is the image that has come to mind.  Feeling like the whole value I bring to this model of education has been focused on the strictly cerebral exercises we are forced to engage in without the “human component” that reminds us of why we are needed as lawyers, and how it possible for us to engage with our clients and society overall.  Because in “real” life there is a need for bodies to be engaged; there is a need for the soul of a person, their emotions, to play a role in whatever job is being performed.

Intelligence is multi-faceted and simply the rote memorization of rules or facts do not add up at the end of the day to a job well done.  It certainly does not seem to make lawyers happy.  So what does seem to make them — me — happy?  Feeling like I am growing.  Being enabled to “open” and reveal what it is that makes me a valuable asset to whomever I am working for or collaborating with.  The image here is of a flower.  Not necessarily one in full bloom (yet) but one that is making its way toward the light and offering itself in an authentic way to the world.

Now, in my final week of exams, every time I begin to feel like that brain in a jar, every time I find myself conjuring up that image or telling myself that story about what it is like to be me at this moment, I shift and remember the flower.  I remember there is a whole other story that parallels my journey of the mind.  That is the one where I live through creative expression, even when it comes to analyzing the law.  And where I practice opening, not staying closed, in everything I do.  This is the story I want to be living in and out of as I graduate.

Today I’d like to share a message posted recently on Facebook by my friend and mentor J. Kim Wright.  Her work as a Legal Rebel, her teaching & her writing, have been major, major sources of support and inspiration for me as I’ve moved through law school.  As graduation nears, I look forward to contributing in whatever ways I can to the sea change that is before us in the field of law.  So cheers — to collaboration and to leadership that has to do with clarity and expanded awareness, to peace and JUSTICE…  And the gift of being able to share…

Screenshot 2015-04-04 07.33.51

Feeling rushed?  Overwhelmed with all you’ve got on your plate?  Not sure how you’ll find the time for everything?  It may seem counter-intuitive, but try taking a BREAK…  Ideally, under a tree…  Check out this short video for a guided meditation you can do to rest your mind, release tension in your body & set a positive tone for the rest of your day…

What does “socially conscious contracts” mean?  Well, can you be socially conscious if you aren’t conscious?  Listen to this talk I recently gave to a class in New Paradigms at the Touro Law Center in Central Islip, NY…

Click here to watch the lecture Sharing Law & Conscious Contracting: Facilitating Socially Conscious Contracts

Photo on 3-31-15 at 12.02 PM #3

Often called ‘the father of modern yoga,’ BKS Iyengar wrote that enjoyment comes through awareness of all of one’s senses. This quick guided meditation over a cuppa coffee will hopefully help you to experience what Iyengar was talking about.  In so doing, hopefully it will also bring you an experience of peace and quiet as you start your day…

As a final semester 3L I think about this a lot — give a listen to see if you identify with this worldview or if approaching your legal career from a more creative perspective is something you might want to give more consideration to… Please also look out for future posts on this topic, including exercises aimed at facilitating tough conversations with your own self…

Video  —  Posted: March 20, 2015 in Authenticity, Innovation, Inspiration, Legal Education, Videos
Tags: , , ,

Originally an assignment for a class, this is my presentation on lawyer stereotypes that are reversed through film.  Please enjoy this light-hearted look at what lawyers can bring to the table…