Free your mind and the rest will follow.
-En Vogue (1992)
Mindfulness means being aware of the internal and external experiences occurring in the present moment. It is the ability to be fully present of where you are and what you are doing, and not being overwhelmed by what is going on around us. A common way to practice mindfulness is through meditation but before you roll your eyes and dismiss this as something you’re not interested in, don’t need, or don’t have time for, think again. Why should you practice mindfulness? Because it works and not just for bar prep. Click here to check out some of the numerous physical, psychological, and social benefits.
Mindfulness doesn’t mean you have to sit in the lotus position and say “Om.” If you are in the midst of experiencing intense emotions (say, feeling overwhelmed by all of the material you are supposed to learn for the bar exam), take one minute to just stop and breathe. Pay attention to your breathing, notice the rhythm and feeling of how you take the air in and push it out. It’s not as simple as you think. Our brain is so wired to do everything that it we need to remind it to really notice the senses in a given moment, the ones that normally slip by without us ever being consciously aware of it.
How mindful are you? Take this 5 minute mindfulness quiz and find out.
Chances are, you are not as mindful as you could be. You could be a bit more accepting of yourself and your feelings, a little less self-critical and judgmental.
Here is a simple exercise to get you started:
- Set aside some time. We’ll start with one minute.
- Breathe in for a count of seven, hold for a count of seven, then release your breath for a count of seven. Repeat this cycle two more times.
- Focus on the present moment. It’s not about quieting your mind or achieving a state of zen. The goal is to pay attention to the present moment without judging yourself.
- If you notice judgments entering your thoughts, make a mental note, let it pass.
- Return to the present moment. Again, don’t judge yourself for any of your thoughts. Simply bring your wandering mind back to the present.
The process is simple but not necessarily easy. You need to keep doing this- even once a day is sufficient.
One great thing about mindfulness is that it is so much more than breathing. You can do it with anything, any time. Below is a list of resources to help you get started:
- Websites: information on mindful eating, driving, walking.
- Apps: List of free apps here, and a more detailed list here.
- Specifically for Lawyers: Check out lawyer Jeena Cho’s book The Anxious Lawyer.