Since one of my jobs at the law school is offering retreats and other programs of spiritual formation to the law school community, I was more than a little interested when I saw a law journal article titled “Educating Lawyers to Meditate.” The article was about the emerging “contemplative practice movement,” focusing on its appearance in the legal profession.
Many of us who meditate (whether we call it prayer, meditation or contemplation) do so as part of our spiritual practice. It is a way to deepen our experience of God.
The article is a good reminder, however, that meditation is valuable even for those who don’t think in “God terms.” This is especially true for people in fast-paced, high-powered jobs, who work under enormous pressure. It is easy in such situations to get carried along from one demand to another.
In describing the experience of one person, the article encapsulated advice I’ve given any number of times, advice that is a good for everyone to keep in mind as the pressures of job, relationship or project mount and you start to feel yourself being swept along beyond your ability to control:
Stop. Whatever you were in the middle of, just stop for a minute. Stop and do nothing. (I promise – the world will not stop spinning on its axis if you just stop for a moment.)
Breathe. Inhale and exhale, letting your mind focus on the sensation of your breath. Don’t try to change your breath, just breathe. (There is something deeply centering about sitting with your breath.)
Notice. Notice what you had been feeling. Distress. Queasiness in the stomach. Pounding in the head. Shaking. Whatever it was. Again, don’t try to change, just notice.
The simple act of stopping, breathing, noticing, gives you some space. Let’s you realize the feeling of being swept up and out of control is just that – a feeling. And let’s you realize that you need not get swept along with that feeling. That you can just let it go.
If you are a spiritual person, you might find yourself talking to God a bit at this point. But even if you aren’t, you’ll find tremendous benefit from this simple practice.
Stop. Breathe. Notice.