By Pete Mackey
Todd, a young lawyer, sat down at the seminar next to one of the most respected lawyers in his town. Todd thought he looked so confident, so accomplished. And he was. He had won large verdicts in David v. Goliath fights for years. He never lost his cool. At one of the breaks, Todd introduced himself. His older counterpart was more than friendly and invited him to lunch. As they ate, Todd asked what his secret was—how was he able to handle the pressure of big case after big case, year after year?
The answer was not what Todd expected. “There are a lot of things: preparation, hard work, a good support staff…and meditation,” the older lawyer told him. MEDITATION? MEDITATION? “Yes, Todd, meditation.” He had been doing it for years and described the benefits: it reduced stress, improved concentration, increased self-awareness, and provided an overall better feeling.
As Todd drove home from the seminar, he could not get the mediation thing out of his mind. In part, it surprised him that a veteran like his new friend could be engaged in such a new age concept. But, and more importantly, it might be the answer to his issues. Though Todd’s practice was doing okay—appointed criminal cases, some wills and deeds for friends, and a few personal injury matters—he was drowning in debt. Eighty percent of his monthly income went to student loans, rent and a car payment. The stress was almost unbearable at times.
Todd started researching as soon as he got home. Site after site, study after study reinforced what he had heard at the seminar. After reading “how to” tips at a few websites, he dimmed the lights, sat in a comfortable chair and started inhaling for six seconds, holding the breath for five and exhaling for four. Just as he had read, he attempted to focus on his breathing, pushing all other thoughts out of his mind. The breathing he could do. Pushing out all other thoughts was another matter. The more he pushed, the more he thought of his student loans and the lawyer billboards all up and down the street his office was on. After 20 minutes, he gave up—frustrated. This was much harder than he thought.
The next morning he gave it another try and the results were the same. And the next day. And the next day. After a week he was about to give up, but then he called the older lawyer. As he recounted his failing start, the older lawyer smiled. “You are trying too hard,” he told Todd. “Take it in bits and pieces.” “But I am,” said Todd, “and it’s not working.” The veteran attorney replied, “Well then, Todd, try a meditation app.”
That was a year ago. Todd did buy a meditation app—there are several (ask Google)—and it is now the rare day that he does not meditate. As the due date for his student loan approaches each month, the left side of his brain starts obsessing about all the bad things that will happen if it’s not paid. Through meditation, however, he is able to reel those thoughts back in and let his right side figure out a rational path. The payment is the same and it is still due each month, but now he is dealing with it without the drama.
One thing Todd understands now—meditation is Old School, not New Age. It goes back to prehistoric religions doing group chants, or mantras. The science is clear—meditation works. There are multitudes of studies, peer reviewed and not, that document the mental, spiritual and physical health benefits gained through meditation. It has been found to be helpful in combating depression and for those in recovery from substance abuse.
So how do you get started? Just like Todd did. Some people start with simple breathing exercises. Others seek out practitioners for lessons or groups that meditate together. And then there are the apps…pick the method and type most comfortable to you. Do not expect overnight success. Remember—it’s the journey, not the destination…