The Wake Up Call for Lawyers

Resting in the Present Moment

April 29, 2021 Judi Cohen Season 5 Episode 298
The Wake Up Call for Lawyers
Resting in the Present Moment
Show Notes Transcript

Does it seem like there's still/always so much going on? It does to me. What if we could rest in the middle of it all? What if we had a "practice" of resting, throughout the day, and we still got everything done? That's the inquiry on this episode of the Wake Up Call. Enjoy.

I’m always saying that when you ask a lawyer how we’re doing, we say, “Good, busy!” And it’s true, the law is a busy place. And the mind can be a busy place – or at least I know my mind can be a very busy place. All it takes is a moment or two to suss this out: take a moment right now, settle in, take a breath, and then take a look. What level of activity is happening in your mind? If “a lot” is about the right description, I’d say you’re in the majority, of lawyers and also of all humans. 

One reason: it’s how we’re trained. We’re trained to be looking at whatever is in front of us, but also at what could happen down the road, or what happened before and how we can understand it, or spin it. We’re trained to look out for danger, pitfalls, what could go wrong, what could go south, what could blow up. Also, we’re planning, creating – something I lover about our profession is, it can be really creative – and, because it’s true that the law really is a jealous mistress, we’re trained to figure out what else we can do: do, do, do!, while we’re also trying to love the people we love, care for the people we care for, find a way to take care of ourself.  

There is a quality of restlessness to all of this. Even when I’m not up against a deadline or when I don’t have anything pressing, I can still sense into a kind of reaching, striving, looking for something to do, often finding it, doing it - even if it’s just reply to a bunch of emails: a kind of busy-ness, a kind of restlessness, in the mind.

And it’s not just the mind. It’s also the body. There can be a quality of restlessness in the body. For me, sometimes it’s as simple as at the end of the evening, drying the dishes when I could just relax and let them dry on their own. Or curling my toes in & out, or swinging my leg. Or being online and having a real, physical sense of wanting to go somewhere else – to my browser, my email, Amazon, whatever.

The great Vietnamese teacher Thich Nhat Hanh frames this as struggle. He says, “The problem is that not many of us know how to allow our body and mind to rest. We are always struggling; struggling has become a kind of habit. We cannot resist being active, struggling all the time. We struggle even during our sleep.

I even struggle in my sleep sometimes. Do you?

So the last couple of weeks I’ve been sharing this new practice, G.R.O.U.N.D. The G is for ground itself: feeling the ground beneath our feet, beneath our bodies. Connecting to the earth. Maybe connecting to our ancestors, if that feels supportive. A kind of vertical connection, including our own bodies – the weightedness of being on the earth, being part of the earth.

And feeling into the ground of community as well, if that feels supportive, or of family, or tribe, or collective: connecting to one another in whatever way is most supportive, tapping into that inter-connectedness that supports us horizontally. 

And then rest: the R in GROUND stands for rest. What would it be like to live a life where we really knew how to allow our body and mind to rest? What would it be like to let go of the struggle? I’m not talking about letting go of the larger struggle to bring justice and love into the world, or even to win the individual battles we’re hired to win. We’re in that and we don’t have much choice – we need to stay in that.

But the inner struggle? The struggle that Thay is naming as “Always struggling; struggling that becomes a habit, that has us unable to resist always being active, that has us struggling in our sleep?” We don’t have to stay in that. 

And if we’re thinking about something that happened in the past, if we’re planning, worrying, stressing, if we’re finding something to do, all the time, it’s really a struggle.

So even though there is a LOT of work to do, we need periods of rest. And the world is not going to give those to us. Not this world, not in this moment. Maybe it never has – I wouldn’t know – I’ve only lived in these times. 

So we have to be proactive. We have to take moments of rest, and to take them, we have to make them. 

And for me, I have to start with the body. When my body rests, my mind has a chance to rest. If my body isn’t resting, there’s so little likelihood my mind will be at rest. You can check this out for yourself.

The main thing to know is that rest can happen in any moment. It can happen when you’re sitting in meditation, as part of your solitary practice of sitting quietly, each day. It can also be the foundation of your walking practice – resting while you’re walking, just putting one foot in front of the other,  even if that practice is just walking from your screen to the kitchen to make tea: rest while you walk, relax the body, experience walking, let go of everything else. Rest is a beautiful part of lying-down practice, and you can combine it with a body scan (you can do that sitting as well), which can provide even more opportunity to rest.

But rest can also happen in portable practice, in daily life. What about taking one meal this week and resting while you’re eating: tasting each food, enjoying each bite, relaxing between bites, relaxing before and after. Or rest next time you’re standing in line at the market (if you’re going to the market yet), and just relax while you’re waiting instead of checking your email. While a page is loading on your computer, rest. When you’re talking with someone, rest and listen while they’re talking, and speak slowly and rest between thoughts when it’s your turn to talk. Relax and rest between projects during the day. Actually take a rest – lie down for a nap or a rest in the afternoon. Rest when you close down your screen for the day (do close it down at some point). Rest while you’re cooking, in the shower, while you’re brushing your teeth. Let the dishes dry on their own.