What does it mean to meditate?

Even though you’ve heard a lot about the benefits of meditation, you may not be entirely sure about exactly what meditation is. While many meditation traditions come with philosophies, religious beliefs, rituals, and specialized equipment, meditation itself is simply a form of mental training. 

All of the many different meditation practices that exist, at their essence, boil down to the same thing: they are all means of settling and focusing the mind. By sitting quietly with your own mind day after day, you get to know it better.

One reason meditation can have such a powerful effect on people’s lives is that our mind is one of the very few things we have the ability to control. We may not be able to control what happens to us, but by getting to know ourselves and our own thought patterns better, we can learn to control how we react to and process the events in our lives—and developing this ability changes how we experience life.

We can retain inner strength and a sense of well-being even in very difficult situations. We can savor life more fully when we aren’t distracted by unnecessary worries about what might or might not happen in the future.

Building this kind of mental skill is particularly useful for lawyers, since we are always working to attain outcomes on behalf of our clients, and yet have limited control over those outcomes. We can’t be certain of how the judge will react to our arguments, how our opposing counsel will receive our negotiating proposal, or even how the witness we’ve prepared will actually testify when faced with the spotlight of the courtroom. And, of course, we have no control at all over the facts that brought our client into our office in the first place.

The difficult reality is that regardless of how well we do our jobs, our ability to effect any particular outcome is highly constrained. Under these circumstances, getting to know our own minds and building our ability to deal with our mental reactions can be sanity-preserving!

If you’re interested in starting or deepening your meditation practice, join me for Mindful Pause! 31 days of daily 6-minute mindfulness and meditation practice. We’re starting on Monday!

Excerpt from The Anxious Lawyer: An 8-Week Guide to a Joyful and Satisfying Law Practice Through Mindfulness and Meditation

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