Thursday, May 21, 2015

Mindfulness For All You Skeptical Lawyers

 Apparently, there are a lot of you. You mindfulness skeptics.

Probably not surprising that there would be skeptics about a technique called mindfulness meditation that pretty much involves doing "nothing" for 20 or so minutes each and every day. America as a culture is an overachiever's dream. Doing nothing is really not widely accepted as...well...acceptable. According to the International Labor Organization (part of the UN): “Americans work 137 more hours per year than Japanese workers, 260 more hours per year than British workers, and 499 more hours per year than French workers.”

You might not be surprised to discover that working longer hours means more stress. And no one works longer hours than lawyers, am I right? As the chart shows, 80% of stress is work related in the average person's life. Employers worth their salt are pretty much always trying to find ways to reduce stress, understanding the stress contributes to a host of physical ailments from cardiovascular disease to depression.

Currently, mindfulness meditation is gaining a lot of attention at present as the "flavor" of the month in business circles and as such it's garnering its share of skeptics as well.

But mindfulness meditation is more than a flavor of the month! Since 1978 it has been on a slow but steady growth rate of acceptance and understanding of its benefits as a result of the hard work of Jon Kabat- Zinn, who, in 1978, founded the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and developed Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Program. 

Kabat-Zinn stripped the religious trappings from the meditation process and kept what he needed to assist people in dealing with stress. Mindfulness is not a pursuit of some esoteric enlightenment; rather, mindfulness seeks to help find a meaningful life right here and right now. Mindfulness meditation reduces stress and helps us have a more meaningful life by slowing our thoughts down, seeing the stories we tell ourselves over and over as just that - stories and finding a way to be present in our lives right now rather than living in the past or ruminating about the future. 

The benefits of mindfulness are being recognized by leading universities and research facilities. Even the Harvard Business Review is publishing articles explaining the benefits to individuals and organizations: "...by paying attention to what’s going on around us, instead of operating on auto-pilot, we can reduce stress, unlock creativity, and boost performance." 

What business or professional wouldn't want those benefits from something as simple as practicing a technique that takes all of ten to twenty minutes a day?

To learn more about mindfulness meditation or MBSR these resources are a useful start:

Thanks for reading.