Posts Tagged ‘authenticity’

It’s funny.  I remember drafting some first posts on this blog where alignment was an organizing force for my writing.  To stay focused, I used anatomy drawings I sketched during my yoga teacher training years ago.  I had actually never been able to draw anything in a literal way before that training.  Anything I created artistically tended towards the abstract.  And for those who know me well, this is not surprising.  Yet, the concentration I was able to develop through my yoga teaching course allowed me to explore what it meant to have my body, including my brain, aligned.  Not just my thinking mind.  Not just the physical parts of myself.  But everything.  And amazingly, this allowed me to grow patience.  It allowed me, as I said, to focus.  It allowed me to draw figures realistically, and to express myself in a way that felt balanced (not overly expressionistic, but not frustrated in a sea of technicality).

Skeletal IISo I used those drawings I produced in such a balanced state as inspiration in law school.  I remembered what it felt like during yoga teacher training in order to connect with a state of mind/state of being that allowed for both the technical skills to come through and the emotion, the self that needs spaces of freedom in order to create.  I had to find that within myself because it’s not how I was taught to function in school, but I have to say it allowed me to take ownership of my studies in a way that both felt authentic for me and that resulted in grades I could live with (striving for As in everything regardless of how the process of preparing for those As feel has never been something I’ve been willing to accept, that’s just me).

I find it interesting now to realize that the intentions I am setting for myself now that I’ve left law school and re-emerged into the working world are reflecting a similar internal process.  I am observing where I am, what I am hoping for my future and what I need in order to be productive in the present.  I am conscious of the “hard” expectations my employer and co-workers have of me and I am conscious of my needs at the same time.  I am aligning myself with a balance point.  It’s hard to explain, but I can feel this in my body.  There is more length to my spine than when I do not pay attention to both aspects.  There is a feeling of emptiness not in terms of not having enough, but of being ready for more.  Even my tail bone is happy to feel balance between both sides of my bottom.  This may sound silly or insane, but from my perspective it’s significant.  My body is giving me signals as to how aligned with my goals and intentions I am.  There is no pain in my posture right now.  There is no tension I am holding onto in various areas of my body.  THIS seems to indicate alignment, both within my physical self and in terms of how that physical (also mental and emotional) self are aligned with the larger world I am moving within.

Does this make sense to folks?  It feels like discourse that is worth engaging in.

Dear Other Recent Law Grads,

It’s funny, how now that I’m in my thirties, now that I’ve joined a secret society (by this I mean the field of law), now that I’m starting to find even footing in life, I find more and more that what I crave is a sense of community. Sounds cheesy, right? Or like I’m pointing out the obvious? Well, hold on. I would like to share a bit more of my story.

Screenshot 2015-09-07 14.34.33

See, when I was younger (for some reason, the theme song to All in the Family plays in my head here — “thhhhhose were the dayyys”) I used to run away from whatever required sustained team efforts. I would feel frustrated trying to communicate enough to get everyone onboard with a certain approach to problem-solving or I’d recognize that who I was and what I had to offer wasn’t being honored off the bat so I’d want to call it a day. When I looked for jobs, I was able to find really cool fits — very cool if you ask me. But I always sort of kept in my mind this idea that these things were temporary, and that there was no way I could keep doing what I was doing for very long. Short attention span it seems. And yet, now I wonder, was it a short attention span all of these years or was there something missing in terms of how I was presenting myself to the world and what I imagined was possible to receive in return?

Cryptic, I know. But to bring this back into current focus, let’s take the precipice I am currently on. Having finished my JD, having decided I do not necessarily want to take the bar (at least right now), I have found myself in a place of major uncertainty. Where do I fit in? What is going to allow me to feel comfortable and valued enough where I can keep throwing down every day and feel gratified by the experience? (NOTE: if you don’t feel that this is an important element in the realm of employment, I warn you, you may not want to continue reading…) Conventional wisdom as we graduate law school appears to be this: now you are a lawyer; you have a community; you just have to find some job in that community and everything will be fine. Well I would like to say STOP — if you have found this to be the advice given by people in your life or the mentality demonstrated by your law school community or your local bar association, please, do keep reading.

I am finding that legal education has provided me with a platform from which I can assert even more strongly who I am and what I bring to any table (whether it is a table at a church amidst massive grassroots organizing, whether it is at the table of those who are attempting to found a progressive school, or whether it is at the table of big wigs in finance and industry — all of which are tables I have recently found myself seated). Law does not provide an easy plug-in for individuals who want to find for themselves niches that capitalize on who they are, their authentic voices and gifts. You may have to go outside of the “law community” if you want to find a nexus between whatever your interests in law are and the qualities and preferences that make you who you are.

The good news of course is that there are many lawyers who have realized this — that their ability to perform in the legal world is not tied to wholly identifying with whatever firm culture or bar association bullshit is most prevalent where they are working. It is not necessary to pigeon-hole ourselves in an industry where authenticity and creativity are feared or suppressed. It is actually possible, and I would argue desirable, to put out feelers when you are networking for individuals and organizations that feel like a fit for who you are. Find a sense of community and then be open as far as how your training and expertise from law school may be integrated into whatever culture you find gives you that feeling. Do not be afraid to seek that community or lie to yourself and assume you have found it simply because these are the individuals who would hire you, or because this is the firm that everyone in your family is impressed by you becoming a part of. Find what impresses YOU. Seek what and who inspires YOU and invest in that community. There is too much out there for us to be boxed in by whatever fears or narrow mindedness has come before.

With love and affection,

Shoshanna

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…

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.

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…

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…

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!!

Had an epiphany this morning.  (Sidebar: I used to constantly have epiphanies, like, every day – is that because I was in my twenties??)

Epiphany goes: Me in bed, letting sunlight stream across my face, lingering in the liminal space between starting and avoiding my day, and almost like light finding its way into a crack in my brain, I realized something.

All the different projects I’ve got going on right now, all the different environments I’ll be working in after graduation, all the different types of mode I’ll need to be in to see various jobs and projects through, they will all require me to be in character.  Not for the reasons I tend to associate with acting as a certain type of character though.  And not for anyone else – i.e. not for acceptance, not for legitimacy.  But for my own attention, for my own sake in attempting to organize what’s before me and execute each task in a way that fulfills expectations and feeds my soul, which underlies whatever character I may ever feel I need to invent…Screenshot 2014-09-13 16.50.25

It’s an ADHD thing I guess (again 😉  It’s about finding strategies that work for me in attaching to various projects for the purpose of engaging fully in them, and for the purpose of being able to pull my attention out (in another post I refer to this as having an Off as well as an On switch).  It’s not about making myself adapt in terms of identity to whatever is in front of me, it’s about finding an aspect of myself, a dimension in which I can exist and return to later, wherein I feel connected to whatever it is I’m doing.  And then, again, being able to pull out.  Finding means or vessels I guess for absorption and having a way out of the rabbit hole at the same time.

Don’t worry, at this point anyway, I’ve not considered coming up with names for all of these characters (although it occurs to me this could happen…).  Right now I’m just taken with this idea of connecting with a character in order to trigger my focus for a particular task.  Finding landmarks in a sense, so that I can conjure up those landmarks, the feelings for instance that come with working on a certain type of project, in a way that invites me into that space.  So it’s not focusing on the expectations of whomever I’m working for, which tends to make me anxious, that I can use as an anchor.  It’s the aspects of myself that come up in the process of working on that thing, and allowing myself to feel at home in those emotions, at home in those thoughts…

 

Please weigh in if you feel moved…