The Mindfulness Blog

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The United Nations Meditation Room

I know that, politically speaking, there are conflicting views about the United Nations ("UN")-- both as an idea, and as an institution. But surely, we can all agree that it is a wonderfully aspirational thing.

As Dag Hammarskjold (Secretary-General from 1953 to 1961) wrote at the time he dedicated the Meditation Room, "We all have within us a center of stillness, surrounded by silence". My mom was a huge Dag Hammarskjold fan, and I am again reminded why. His posthumous book, Markings, was at her bedside for years.

The existence of the Meditation Room, is remarkable-- particularly in an institution that is (at least, for me) an inspiration. It's open to anyone, and affords us a private space where we are reminded to be still, and silent. What a gift!

Just as significant, the UN General Assembly's Rules of Procedure require a minute of silence to begin the first and the final meetings of each session-- no lobbying, no arguing, no proselytizing-- just silence. For some, the minute of silence may simply be the calm before the storm, but for others, it's an opportunity to visit the "center" that Dag Hammarskjold recognized.

Stillness and silence is the essence of meditation. And mindfulness is the state of being that the practice of meditation-- however one may choose to meditate-- will nurture, and cultivate. It's a constant struggle that the busyness of our day-to-day world seems to win, all too often. But it's a struggle worth engaging in. Think of Lincoln's better angels.

Which leads me back to the Meditation Room at the UN. It's not a big room in terms of square footage, but it is immense in terms of significance. It's a room that all of us need to know exists, even if we choose not to-- or cannot, because of distance or physical restraint--visit. It's a room that all institutions in the legal profession-- law firms, legal departments, bar associations, courthouses and mediation centers-- should have.

Why single out the legal profession? Well, for starters, it's the profession of which I was an active member for almost 40 years. Beyond that, it's a profession that exists to facilitate and channel conflict-- in the courtroom, and around the negotiation table. Overt conflict is what we, as lawyers, deal with every day.

Let's afford ourselves access to stillness and silence, in the middle of a day that is otherwise filled with conflict. Let's all dedicate a Meditation Room in our workspace!

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