Don’t worry, you can practice mindfulness and still be a jerk

wildmind meditation newsJeena Cho, Above the Law: In case you missed it, there was a cover story in the Wall Street Journal on mindfulness in the legal profession. It’s fair to say that when the WSJ is writing about mindfulness in law, it’s gone mainstream. I was interviewed and quoted in the article, and I’ll admit, I got a little teary eyed when I saw my name on the cover of the WSJ. Not bad for an immigrant “salon girl.”

In the July issue of the ABA Journal, there was an article titled How lawyers can avoid burnout and debilitating anxiety, citing meditation and mindfulness …

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French tourists guilty in Sri Lanka over Buddha photos

Charles Haviland, BBC: A Sri Lankan court has given suspended jail terms to three French tourists for wounding the religious feelings of Buddhists by taking pictures deemed insulting.

Two women and one man were detained in the southern town of Galle after a photographic laboratory alerted police.

The pictures show the travellers posing with Buddha statues and pretending to kiss one of them.

Most of Sri Lanka’s majority ethnic Sinhalese are Theravada Buddhist.

Mistreatment of Buddhist images and artefacts is strictly taboo in the country. The incident is alleged to have taken place at a temple in central Sri Lanka.

Website posting
Police spokesman …

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Maharishi foundation: Competitor violates trademark

wildmind meditation news

Jeff Eckhoff: A nonprofit Iowa-based educational foundation tied to the calming meditation teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi has injected new stress into the life of a competitor.

Maharishi Foundation USA Inc. of Fairfield this week sued the Meditation House LLC, accusing it of infringing on the foundation’s trademark covering the teaching of “Transcendental Meditation.”

Paperwork filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Des Moines accuses The Meditation House of lying in its advertising about the benefits of “Vedic Meditation.” Claims about the studied health value of those techniques are “false on their face,” according to the lawsuit, and designed to confuse the public with research done on Transcendental Meditation, which has been actively taught in the U.S. for roughly 50 years.

“The Foundation has never had an affiliation or license with The Meditation House nor, on information and belief, has anyone connected with The Meditation House ever taken an authorized course on the TM technique, let alone acquired the skills and knowledge necessary or the authorization from the Foundation required to teach it,” the lawsuit says. “The Meditation House’s belief that the parties’ respective meditation services are equivalent is based on a self-serving desire to appropriate the valuable goodwill associated with the Foundation’s brand for its own commercial gain.”

A disclaimer on insists that the company and life coach Jules Green “expressly disclaim any association with Maharishi Foundation Ltd.,” its trademarks or its practices.

Green, a “holistic life coach” who offers workshops in San Diego, New York and Des Moines, on the website lauds the “5000-year-old tradition of Vedic Meditation” and describes how her own meditation “led her to India to study with world-renowned Vedic scholar Thom Knoles in an ashram in the foothills of the Himalayas.”

Green did not immediately return a phone call to the Iowa number listed on her website.

Iowa corporation records show The Meditation House, LLC was formed in May 2010 by Jules Green Zubradt. The corporate address listed in state records belongs to an Ankeny home owned by Marilyn Green.

The Maharishi Foundation’s lawsuit accuses Green’s company of false advertising, unfair competition, trademark infringement, trademark dilution, false representation, unfair competition and unjust enrichment. Court papers seek “all profits wrongfully derived by The Meditation House” from its allegedly improper activities, as well as multiple changes in the content of the Meditation House website.

The foundation also seeks a court order requiring that Green’s company notify “each and every customer who purchased services” from The Meditation House that “there is no evidence that the technique taught by the defendant reduces the risk of heart disease or normalizes blood pressure, and there is no published scientific study that demonstrates any health benefit from the technique taught by the defendant.”

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Meditation: a new practice for lawyers

It could have been the usual Type A gathering of lawyers at UC Berkeley School of Law except for the subject matter — yoga in Room 110, Qi Gong in Room 105 followed by guided meditation with well-known Zen Buddhist priest Norman Fischer.
Almost 200 lawyers, law students, judges and law professors from around the country, as well as from Canada and Australia, descended on the Berkeley campus last fall for the first-ever national conference on the legal profession and meditation.

Called “The Mindful Lawyer: Practices & Prospects for Law School, Bench and Bar,” the conference was chaired by Berkeley Law Scholar-in-Residence Charles Halpern, who teaches a seminar on meditation.

Meditation, says Halpern, can hone such traits as focus, creativity, empathy and listening, all of which can make lawyers better at what they do. In addition, meditation reduces stress, hardly unknown in the profession.

Halpern started meditating when he moved from Washington, D.C., to New York to start the City University of New York School of Law as founding dean after teaching at Stanford, Georgetown and Yale. Not only was he to start a new law school, he was to rethink legal education with a commitment to public interest law. “A friend of mine encouraged me to deal with the conflicting pressures and stress of the job with…

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meditation. My first reaction was, ‘What’s that going to do?’” His friend said it might allow Halpern to find a “balanced place to come back to” when he was feeling the pressures of the job in a way that was “responsive to challenges, not just reactive.” Halpern found the meditation helpful. “It wasn’t a cure-all, but sometimes when I was slipping into a confrontation with a member of the board of trustees or something, I could take a breath and catch myself. It was enough that I kept at it.”

That was almost 30 years ago, when a conference like the one at Berkeley would have been unthinkable, Halpern says. Even 15 years ago such a conference would be unlikely. But, today, he notes, meditation doesn’t seem so exotic nor does it have strong religious connotations that may have put off some people. It’s been adopted by many in the secular world as a way to calm down, clear one’s mind and de-stress.

It’s not that lawyers need meditation and people in other professions don’t, says Doug Chermak, an Oakland environmental lawyer and law program director for the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society. It’s just that the common language lawyers speak and a common understanding of how meditation can apply to their jobs makes for a richer experience when attorneys come together.

Web definitions of meditation range from “a state of consciousness, when the mind is free of scattered thoughts and various patterns” to “a means of transforming the mind [to] encourage and develop concentration, clarity, and emotional positivity.” It often involves sitting and concentrating on the breath.

Meditation, says Timothy Tosta, a land use and environmental lawyer at Luce Forward in San Francisco, “is like a free pass to both being a better lawyer and a better human being.” He took it up after he was told almost 20 years ago that he had two years to live because of an undiagnosed melanoma. “That’s an effective way to get your attention,” he says. Like many lawyers, he had spent much of his time “in combat,” a state, he says, that does not promote awareness of the world around you. In addition, Tosta states, it’s not true that a person “can be a raging lunatic during the day and then be demonstrably different at home with the family.” When he got his diagnosis, he started meditating, doing yoga and Qi Gong and “it’s really been kind of a magical experience to try to conduct my life in a different way,” which now includes regular work as a hospice volunteer and as a life coach to colleagues. And he is no less a success as an attorney than he was.

Tosta is aware, as is Halpern, that many lawyers who might especially benefit from meditation, such as litigators for whom confrontation is a daily occurrence, are the least likely to try it. Tosta was once one of those people for whom winning justified some extreme behaviors. But a scorched-earth policy, even if it is part of the legal culture, is harmful both on a psychic and a practical level. “Then you find out [that the person you just humiliated] is a director on a company where you want to be hired. Isn’t that a pisser?” Tosta cracks.

There is a way, he adds, to win in court and still support ongoing relationships and end in a way that isn’t painful. Meditation helps bring that about by letting “you see yourself and your role in the world in a much bigger way.”
Halpern says one of the skills that meditation can provide lawyers — “which I view as a crucial professional skill” — is the capacity to listen. “So many lawyers, by training, are always thinking ahead, specifically thinking about what they’re going to say. As lawyers we’re trained to do that, questioning a witness, interviewing a client. I think that’s a very important skill — thinking ahead — but it’s also an important skill to listen fully, be present.”

He cites focus, the ability to stay really attentive not just in listening but in reading; creativity, looking at a problem more freshly, and empathy, the ability to see different points of view, as other qualities that are important to a lawyer and that can be improved with meditation.

Presentations at the conference included “Alleviating Lawyers’ Stress, Depression and Substance Abuse: Mindfulness and Health,” “Sitting in Meditation, Sitting on the Bench,” “Mindful Emotional Intelligence as a 21st Century Lawyering Skill” and “What Does a Mindful Lawyer’s Practice Look Like?” Neuroscientists also demonstrated how the brain changes when a person is meditating.

UC Hastings College of Law Professor Karen Musalo was on a panel at the conference on mindfulness practice and social justice. Much of her work has been with asylum seekers and refugees who have fled horrific situations. “What has enabled me to remain in this field and do the work I do confronting so much suffering is I have a way that I reflect and process what I see. Mindfulness has helped me to deal with many things I’ve experienced.”

She says meditation means different things to different people, but “it’s generally accepted that meditation is a process of reflection or introspection where one is attempting to slow down the dog chasing its tail, the gerbil on the treadmill that is our mind in its busy state and become calmer and quieter and be in touch with what is real in terms of one’s self.”

Halpern, who meditates with his old friend Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer when he’s in Washington, says that “by any measure” the conference was a success — in attendance, quality of presentations and involvement. Still, he believes that most of the Berkeley law faculty have little interest in meditation. “It’s not just their loss. I think it’s a loss to the profession,” he says.

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Lawyers who meditate

wildmind meditation news

The University of California at Berkeley, Boalt Hall School of Law recently hosted the first national conference on the legal profession and meditation. Yes, I really do mean “meditation,” not “mediation.” Called “The Mindful Lawyer: Practices & Prospects for Law School, Bench, and Bar,” the three-day event brought together lawyers, judges, law faculty, students, and neuroscientists, according to The National Law Journal.

Conference organizer Charles Halpern, who teaches a seminar at Berkeley Law called “Effective and Sustainable Law Practice: The Meditative Perspective,” said that the legal profession is becoming more open to the benefits of meditation.

“At one time it seemed very exotic, but interest in law and meditation has been growing for a decade,” said Halpern, founding dean of the City University of New York School of Law. “Courses have been showing up in law schools across the country, there have been CLE courses on this and gathering of lawyers focusing on meditation.”

But this is not just some California hippie happening. It turns out that the sponsors of the event include law schools from around the country, including the University of Buffalo, University of Florida, and CUNY, according to the Web site of The Mindful Lawyer, which organized the event.

The sessions, which include yoga lessons, “contemplative methods for working with fear, anxiety, and nervousness,” and lots of similar seminars, are definitely New Age. But hey, if it gets you through the stress of law school and practice, why not?

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Footballers’ wives, prime ministers, lawsuits, and spiritual meditation

Every so often a new celebrity turns to meditation in a time of crisis. It’s Cheryl Cole’s turn apparently, according to numerous news sources, who all appear to be recycling an interview in Vogue. Now Magazine, for example, quotes Cole as saying:

‘Recently I’ve been trying meditation,’ she tells Vogue, ‘but I can’t really seem to get it. My mother does it, and I really think that actually may be the way forward for me, but the thoughts keep coming in. Always. How do you stop them coming in?’

It’s a common problem.

Who is Cheryl Cole? Apparently she’s married to a football player and has been on TV. We’ve never heard of her, but wish her well, and hope she sticks at her practice in the same way Singapore’s former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew has. He’s quoted as saying:

I started [meditation] about two, three years ago when Ng Kok Song, the Chief Investment Officer of the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation, I knew he was doing meditation. His wife had died but he was completely serene. So, I said, how do you achieve this? He said I meditate everyday and so did my wife and when she was dying of cancer, she was totally serene because she meditated everyday and he gave me a video of her in her last few weeks completely composed completely relaxed and she and him had been meditating for years. Well, I said to him, you teach me.

The meditation practice Lee Kuan Yew was taught is a form of Christian Mantra (maranatha).

With all this interest brewing, you’d think meditation would be welcomed with open arms. Unfortunately the Justice Department has had to file suit against the town of Walnut, California, because of the town’s six-year long obstruction of the building of a Zen Center over technicalities, while it simultaneously allowed other religious and secular groups to go ahead with building projects, overriding the same technicalities.

Meanwhile, Ed Halliwell in The Guardian gives a much-needed reminder that meditation is not just a “therapy” to help us deal with traumatic emotional events or to promote health. He notes that he has “become more content because meditation has enriched [his] life through opening [him] up to a sense of deepened meaning.” He doesn’t disparage the more secular applications of meditation. In fact he has written about them extensively, and he rightly sees them as a “way in” to a more spiritual perspective: “While some people may be drawn to practise through the scientific promise of betterment, they may end up finding that once they’ve got started, the path is far more interesting than that.”

Let’s ask Cheryl Cole in a few years…

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Meditations to calm the edgiest lawyers

Recently, an acquaintance presented me with a small book. It was devoted to meditation. Perhaps the individual in question did not know me well, or knew me altogether too well. In particular, the donor either recognized or failed to recognize that I am entirely too twitchy to lie down, say “om” and allow my mind to empty itself until it is on a par with the brainpan of Paris Hilton.

The meditation book, I discovered, had a family. In the bookstore, there were collections of meditations for women who do too much, men from extraterrestrial locales other than Mars, people who don’t talk enough, chefs who hate cilantro, hairstylists with gambling problems, and people who like to watch curling, or perhaps it was hurling. Every over-or under-indulgence in the usual pursuits was represented by a pocket-sized volume equipped with 365 variations on the same theme: apparently, all of us need to become more serene.

The style was simple. Each page led with a quotation, followed by the “meditation,” a paragraph designed to make the reader more mindful of his neglects, addictions, behavioral or hypertrichological propensities. The daily input concluded with a thought for the day, or in some cases, such as for agnostics married to people who like poodles: a prayer.

It occurred to me that there was a missing category: Meditations for Lawyers! So, I thought I’d take a crack at it.

May 5, 2010

QUOTE FOR THE DAY: How sharper than a serrated knife is a Memorandum of Decision denying a Motion to Strike a thoroughly ludicrous cause of action.
– Cleopatra

MEDITATION: It is all good, even the authorities which do not control, including the laws of Nevada and Alabama. Consider the wisdom of the court’s decision. Breathe deeply to try to comprehend its obscure reasoning. The peace of the universe will brim up like boiling coffee. Understanding and letting go of needless whiny questioning and blaming the associate who argued the motion is the key to peace.

PRAYER/THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: I will accept the judgment of the Court. I will write a scathing electronic mail to my client excoriating the decision, and exculpating myself from blame. Help me, Mr. Spock, to disengage from my toxic and bothersome emotional reactions.

That felt pretty good, I thought I’d try again.

Aug. 9, 2010

QUOTE FOR THE DAY: Sometimes, in depositions, I think about committing grievous bodily harm to my opponent.
– St. Cauda Equinus

MEDITATION: Remember to limit your objections to form. Do not allow that aggressive tone to enter your voice, because the next time, there will be videotape. Be still in the knowledge that your client is doing the best she can. Only those who have weak cases resort to using belligerent tactics. Stop thinking about homicide. It will only cause you irritable bowel syndrome. Quiet your racing thoughts and do not click your pen like that. It’s annoying.

PRAYER/THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: I ask the Spirit of the Universe for the strength not to leap across the conference room and throttle my opposing counsel. I ask for the grace to remember that her Manolo Blahniks are compressing her toes painfully. I will not allow myself to think about the recent verdict against my client which allowed her to buy six pair of them.

It’s amazing. I feel wonderful. My pulse is down to 170. My mind is purging unhealthy thoughts, like tritium from a Vermont power plant. Next, “Meditations for Tax Attorneys Who Have Trouble Remembering Numbers;” “Reflections for Attorneys Who Whistle in Court,” and, “Daily Thoughts for Attorneys Who Wish They Had Majored In Ceramics.” Goodbye, indigestion! Hello, Simon and Schuster! •

[via Connecticut Law Tribune]

Amy F. Goodusky, a former paralegal, rock ‘n’ roll singer and horseback riding instructor, is of counsel at O’Brien, Tanski & Young in Hartford.

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Judges blasted over mass meditation ‘exodus’

Judges playing hooky to meditate [see Harvard doc helps judges open minds] has angered lawmakers and the head of the union representing court and probation officers, who called recent “concentration” conferences for jurists “a slap in the face” to public workers.

“It’s almost like it’s a bad joke,” said David Holway, president of the National Association of Government Employees. “All public employees face stress in their jobs. Probation officers working the streets at night, that’s real stress.”

The Herald reported yesterday that Harvard University meditation guru Dr. Daniel Brown hosted a free meditation conference on a Friday for superior court judges. Similar seminars have been held for district court judges and are being planned for probate and juvenile court judges.

“If it’s all hands on deck in the court system . . . the last thing you’d expect is that they’d all be holed up some place meditating rather than getting the job done,” said Sen. Richard Tisei, a Wakefield Republican running for lieutenant governor.

Court officials have defended the conferences as beneficial to improving judges’ performance, but critics say it was ill-timed given recent cutbacks and crushing case backlogs.

“To have a massive exodus from the superior court on any day of the year is probably not a good idea,” Holway said.

One jurist said the courts brought in Harvard mind-body specialist Dr. Herbert Benson, author of “The Relaxation Response,” to meet with judges about 18 years ago.

[via Boston Herald]
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Harvard doc helps judges open minds

Dozens of Bay State judges followed their bliss and abandoned the bench to mellow out with a meditation guru who taught them how to boost their “concentration” in the courtroom.

The six-hour conference – scheduled for a Friday – featured noted Harvard meditation expert Dr. Daniel Brown and attracted 66 of the state’s 80 superior court judges.

It was such a hit other judges are shedding their robes for some deep reflection.

“We focused on identifying the types of stresses that are typical of being a judge,” Brown said. “We talked about ways of enhancing capacities to cope with handling the ongoing stresses of being a judge.”

Brown said it was the second such seminar for superior court judges, who pull down $129,000 a year, in a program aimed at “stress reduction and performance excellence.”

While Massachusetts Trial Court spokeswoman Joan Kenney denied the conference was focused on meditation, Brown told the Herald he incorporated “Eastern traditions on contemplative or concentration training,” including “deep concentration meditation from the Buddhist tradition.”

The conference drew sharp criticism from victims-rights advocate Laurie Myers, a former rape crisis counselor and outspoken critic of the state’s judicial system.

“It takes two or more years to get these sexual-assault cases to trial because of scheduling conflicts. So it makes me feel real good these judges are taking time to learn how to meditate on the bench,” Myers said.

But defense attorney Bob George lauded judges for thinking outside the box.

“The worst possible situation people accused of crimes could find themselves in is before a distracted judge,” he said.

The Feb. 26 meditation day at Boston College Law School comes as the courts grapple with $30 million in budget cuts and struggle to chip away at a case backlog that has reached more than 34,000 dockets, including 5,100 criminal cases.

The state had originally budgeted money for Brown’s seminar, but it was slashed during recent cutbacks. The judges paid for their own lunches and Brown did the conference for free, Kenney said.

Brown said the conference was so well-received that he recently held a similar workshop for district court judges at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, while another is being planned for probate and juvenile court judges. He’s also planning one for California judges, he said.

“The training was focused on being more concentrated to the task at hand without distraction, being more fully present with a continuous awareness,” Brown said. “(It’s about) how to reduce the background noise of extraneous thoughts, so that one could do research and write up court findings with a clearer mind.”

[via Boston Herald]
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Worcester Buddhist temple wins lawsuit against ex-leader

A jury has awarded $300,000 to a Buddhist temple on Dewey Street in a civil lawsuit accusing its former spiritual leader of wrongfully using its assets to buy a Braintree temple, which he later sold for $10 to a corporation he owns.

A Worcester Superior Court jury found Monday that Nam Thai, formerly a monk at the Pho Hien Buddhist Meditation Temple at 96 Dewey St., breached his fiduciary duty to the temple in 2001 when he used $65,000 of the congregation’s money as a down payment for a temple in Braintree called Samanta Bhadras Buddhist Center Inc.

Mr. Thai then secured a mortgage for the Braintree temple in the Worcester temple’s name and, in 2005, sold the Braintree temple for $10 to a corporation over which he had exclusive control, according to the 2007 lawsuit.

A jury found after a seven-day trial that Mr. Thai, a Buddhist monk who had been spiritual leader of the Worcester temple from 1995 to 2001, breached his fiduciary duty to the Worcester temple and that it suffered financial damages as a result. The jurors returned a verdict Monday awarding Vietnamese Buddhist Community of Massachusetts Pho Hien Buddhist Meditation Temple Corp., the charitable corporation that runs the Worcester temple, $300,000 in compensation for Mr. Thai’s actions.

The jury found that Mr. Thai, also known as Thich Thien Hue, did not commit fraud against the Worcester temple. Mr. Thai had denied any wrongdoing.

The plaintiff in the case was represented by Worcester lawyer Philip T. Soloperto. Boston lawyer Robert Carmel-Montes represented the defendant.

Judge Dennis J. Curran presided over the trial.

[via Worcester Telegram and Gazette]
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