Keeva on Life and Practice

Speaking Volumes

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Welcome to part two of a column that asks the question: “What nonlaw book has been most important to you in your life as a lawyer, and why?”


This time, the emphasis is on the inner life, something that too often eludes the busy lawyer.

• Stewart Levine, lawyer, mediator and “resolutionary,” Oakland, Calif.

The Road Less Traveled by Dr. M. Scott Peck. I was think­ing about suicide one weekend around 1986, when I came across the phrase “Many are called; few choose.” It made me realize that I had chosen to follow the inner voices of my heart and conscience in giving up what was a very successful career by traditional measures.

• M. Beth Krugler, lawyer, mediator, Fort Worth, Texas

There’s a line in A Course in Miracles that reads: “The holiest place on earth is where an ancient hatred has become a present love.” As a lawyer who mediates, I truly feel that my work is holy, in that I’ve been given a front-row seat that allows me to watch when clients (and lawyers too) decide to lay aside their grievances, let go of the past and move forward. While they may not actively experience this transition as an expression of a “present love,” that is absolutely the sense I get. And it’s truly beautiful.

• Jill Breslau, lawyer, psychologist, Madison, Wis. A General Theory of Love by Dr. Thomas Lewis, Dr. Fari Amini and Dr. Richard Lannon is an examination of the experience and significance of love from the perspective of neuroscience. The authors explain the structure of the human brain (a “triune” brain in which two brains out of three are not responsive to reason nor to will). As a lawyer, and as a psychotherapist, I found it enormously comforting to understand, at last, the neurological explanation for inner conflict. I am grateful to have a frame—not in psychological terms, but in clear, scientific terms—that reiterates what we have known for a very long time.

• Warren K. Anderson Jr., litigator, Jacksonville Beach, Fla.

Ken Wilber’s A Brief History of Everything is the book that has meant the most to me. Wilber is a contemporary writ­er who has read every significant philosophy, psychology, political science, theology and science book ever written, and he has mapped how it all fits together. No one is com­­pletely wrong, but all these different factions have only partial glimpses of the nature of reality. Wilber writes beautifully and saves me from reading 10,000 books.

• Janine Geske, distinguished professor of law, Marquette University, Milwaukee

The book I return to most often is Sabbath: Restoring the Sacred Rhythm of Rest by Wayne Muller. It is a wonderful book that gently reminds me of the need to find (I mean to schedule) the time in my life to rest and to focus on what is important so that I can be spiritually renewed to return to my hectic life.

• William Lindberg, lawyer, president of the Ash Grove Group in Deer Lake, Minn., and Santa Barbara, Calif.

Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. The reason for this being so significant is that his research dem­onstrates how mere mortals, as opposed to “great men and women,” can find satisfaction, meaning and engagement by paying attention to some fundamental principles and characteristics, such as focus and signif­icance. A self that has self-controlled goals is rarely anxious, bored or out of touch with one’s purpose in life.

• Erica Ariel Fox, lecturer at Harvard Law School, founder and director of the Harvard Negotiation Insight Initiative

Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke. This lit­tle book expresses beautifully some key insights to living wisely and well. We all face enormous pressure every day. We get caught up in the external world and lose connection with our insides, with what is important to us. Rilke reminds us to pause and to align ourselves in life with the voice within. He also cautions against the control and certainty that lawyers strive for, begging us to live into the questions of our lives rather than seeking prematurely to find answers. Rilke wrote: “The point is to live everything.

Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.” In this fast-paced, time-crunched, overcommitted world, reminders to connect within and to live openly in the moment, without false certainty, are wonderful messages.

• Bill van Zyverden, founder, International Alliance of Holistic Lawyers, Middlebury, Vt.

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. This book, which draws on teachings from the ancient Toltec civilization of southern Mexico, is remarkable, partly because there is so little to add to its brief, but somehow comprehensive wisdom. The agreements are: Be im­peccable with your word and say only what you mean. Don’t take anything personally; what others do is not because of you. Don’t make assumptions. And always do your best

Steven Keeva is the author of Transforming Practices: Finding Joy and Satisfaction in the Legal Life.

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