The Wake Up Call for Lawyers

Are We Starting to Get It?

March 03, 2022 Judi Cohen Season 6 Episode 341
The Wake Up Call for Lawyers
Are We Starting to Get It?
Show Notes Transcript

The world seems to be coming together around Ukraine. It did that to manufacture a Covid vaccine as well. What if it's a trend?

Don't be silly, right? There's not enough mindfulness in the world just yet, is there? There's not enough insight. Not enough of us vowing to save all beings, to take the biggest, most compassionate approach. Is there?

I'm not saying we're seeing a sea change, or even that we'll see one in my lifetime, or yours. But I am starting to wonder if we're at least trending in the right direction. And if maybe, just maybe, the (mindful) lawyers are helping...

Hi everyone, it’s Judi Cohen and this is Wake Up Call 341. 

Chapter 20 of the Dhammapada is called The Path, and last week was a brief overview of that path, which is the Eightfold Path of mindfulness – how to live a mindful life, in general and in the law. 

When we start down that Path, we start to cultivate mindfulness – to become attentive to each moment, courageous about whatever is showing up, graceful as we do that (even when we bump up against really difficult moments), and with a kind of letting go – a real promise to ourselves to not wish things away, not wish things were different, but to let go of that and instead, to cultivate the resilience plus the self-compassion to stay put – so, to let go into each moment, whatever it brings. 

As that happens, we can gain insight into the ways our minds work. And maybe into the way all minds work, and that they’re not different – that we’re not different from each other. Plus insight into the ways we affect each other – that impact is as important as intention, that compassion is more important than anything, that love is what’s left when everything else gets stripped away.

When Covid showed up, with all its sorrows and fears, it created so much challenge. But one thing that happened – and that it hadn’t appeared to me to have happened before in a long time, was that the world kind of pulled together. I remember the previous U.S. administration’s approach, and the approaches of certain other countries, certain world leaders – I know it hasn’t been a kumbaya moment. But the world pulled together to create vaccines, to administer them, and to more or less acknowledge that we’re all in this together. Which is not nothing. 

With this terrible attack on Ukraine I’m seeing something similar. It’s not that the whole world is on the same page – and it also wasn’t around Covid. But again there seems to be some collaboration, in terms of the condemnation of the invasion. There seems to be some acknowledgement that we inter-are – that attacking Ukraine is attacking everyone.

I’m starting to wonder if we’re seeing some Bodhisattva energy showing up in the world. Which is the next step, after  mindfulness, and then insight, and then seeing that we’re all interconnected. 

The next step is to turn towards the world and do everything we can to help others.

That is the Bodhisattva vow: to heal the world. It shows up in other traditions, too. Tikkun Olam, in Hebrew. To save all beings, as the Zen students chant. And with the Bodhisattva vow, there’s one more commitment. A commitment to postpone our own liberation until everyone else is also liberated. As Lilla Watson, a Gangulu woman from Queensland, Australia, co-wrote, “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

In an interesting way, maybe not a parallel way but an interesting way, this is the vow we take as lawyers. We postpone not our freedom but our wellbeing, to do everything we possibly can and often a lot more, to help others. But we’re missing some key principles, and maybe we can start to incorporate them. Or maybe, Covid, Ukraine, and there are other things, that are pointing to the fact that these are already starting to be incorporated. 

Bodhisattvas can serve everyone, heal the world, offer compassion to all beings, because they don’t preference one person or group over another. They see that we’re all inextricably bound and belong to one another. They commit to do no harm precisely because of this. They hold the aspiration to do all they can, but then  let go at the end of the day to rest, and at the end of a life knowing they have lived well.

Lawyers learn not to care so much about the wellbeing of all, but still, some of us do. This is
starting to make a difference at our firms and organizations where wellbeing is being prioritized, and in the ways we’re serving our clients. Sure, we learn to preference certain people and groups over others but we’re also starting to learn about interconnection, and this is showing up various ways – and just to point back to Covid and Ukraine, in the ways trade secrets around vaccines were shared, and lawyers involved in multifaceted, multi-national sanctions are working. 

Regarding separation, sadly, we learn to see one another and the earth as separate and sometimes as commodities. But slowly, slowly, we’re having conversations about our own intrinsic value and the value of others, and of the earth. Maybe this will shift the dominant perspective away from a belief that harm is often justified, and towards a more loving and connected one. Many of us still question the intrinsic value of what we’re doing and frankly, whether we’ll survive it, but more and more I’m hearing a commitment to remembering we’re doing our best. Instead of always pushing through our exhaustion without ever feeling we’ve done enough, we’re remembering to appreciate ourselves, one another, and the planet.

Are lawyers taking the Bodhisattva vow? That might be being a bit optimistic. But if we did, how would we feel? How effective could we be? What would the law look like – and what would the world look like? 

It might look more loving because we’d be pointing towards intrinsic good in our work instead of working only for external rewards. And, we might be remembering we’re never going to complete our work if it’s the true work of loving and having compassion for everyone – but it might show up the way the vaccine cooperation showed up.

Of course our work might also be even harder because we’d encounter endless difficulties along the way. But we already do, so we’re used to that. And we'll have to keep on going anyway, which we also already do, even though, or maybe because, no matter what, we wouldn’t ever get to a point when everything was  working, and all beings were cared for. But why not go for that anyway?

Let’s sit.