On Well-Being

6 steps to starting meditation: Don’t overprepare—just dive in

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Lawyers tend to be very analytical, and we like to “logic” our way through life. When it comes to practicing mindfulness and meditation, it’s not enough to simply understand the theory behind it. One must actually practice it to gain its many benefits. I often find the lawyer’s brain gets in the way of simply starting the practice. A lot of lawyers get stuck on practicing meditation “correctly,” or they spend too much time studying the subject rather than doing the practice.

This to me is akin to understanding all the nuances of training for a marathon when you’ve never had the experience of running. It’s much more productive to put on sneakers, go outside and start with an easy walk, then acquire additional knowledge as your physical ability increases.

There are many different types of meditation, philosophies, props and techniques. However, at its essence, meditation is about bringing one’s attention to some type of object—for example, the breath, sounds, mantra—and training the mind to rest its attention on the object. It’s a tool we can use to train the mind to be in the present moment. Over time, you may naturally notice that the mind spends less time ruminating, regretting the past or worrying about the future.

Here’s a simple practice to get you started:

First, start by finding a space where it’s relatively quiet and free from distractions. It’s important not to get too focused on finding the “perfect” condition for practice. Aim for good enough. Many lawyers enjoy doing the meditation practice in the car, for example, in the morning before walking into the office or at the end of the day before driving home. It’s generally best to choose a time and a space where you can practice every day to create a habit.

Second, find something to sit on—any chair will do. While you certainly can purchase meditation cushions, benches and other props, it’s best to keep things simple in the beginning and sit on something that’s comfortable. It’s also helpful to set a timer. Start with five minutes.

Third, close your eyes. You can also choose to keep your eyes slightly open and find a spot to focus on 3 to 4 feet in front of you. But generally, it’s easiest to simply close the eyes.

Fourth, bring your attention to the breath. Choose the part of the body where you can most notice the sensations of the breath. This may be in the nostrils, chest, stomach or elsewhere.

Fifth, continue to rest your attention on the breath. Inevitably, the mind will wander. This is natural. Do not get upset with yourself or judge yourself. Thinking is very natural during meditation. With a sense of friendliness, gently guide your attention back to the breath.

Sixth, continue to follow the breath until your timer goes off.

There are many meditation apps, YouTube videos and other resources that you can use. In the beginning, you may find it helpful to use a guided meditation. Again, be mindful about spending too much time trying to find the perfect app or guided meditations. Some apps I personally enjoy are Calm, Headspace and Insight Timer.

You may find that you approach your meditation practice in the same way as you do law practice. If you find that you’re striving to do meditation perfectly, without error, or trying to force your way through it, give yourself the permission to relax your efforts and commit what you can.

It may be counter to your present state of constant deadlines and goals, but the practice of meditation is about nonstriving and nondoing. It’s the opposite to how we approach law practice, which generally involves effort and, of course, a lot of doing. Over time, you may notice what you practice in meditation will likely spill over into your life, allowing you to better enjoy both your personal life as well as your law practice. Trust your intuition, and find more ease.

For a basic guided meditation, go to jeenacho.com/wellbeing.

Jeena Cho consults with Am Law 200 firms, focusing on strategies for stress management, resiliency training, mindfulness and meditation. She is the co-author of The Anxious Lawyer and practices bankruptcy law with her husband at the JC Law Group in San Francisco.

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