The Mindfulness Blog

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Mindful Agency

"Agency" is the capacity for intentional action-- it's an active state, not a passive state. Can mindfulness and meditation impact our agency? Absolutely-- referencing a popular children's song, those ankle bones are directly connected to that leg bone!

Without question, mindfulness and meditation can inform our agency, and therefore can be understood to contribute to agency-- particularly if we are mindful and practice a specific form of meditation that I refer to as contemplation.

Contemplation and meditation are two peas in a pod-- close cousins that may be different, but are very much related. How so? Both are most often practiced or pursued in stillness, and in quiet, and in that way, share two important qualities. In contemplation, however, the mind focuses on a particular thought or emotion, and gives it a good chew-- in those instances where the mind insistently returns to a specific thought or feeling, there's no point in fighting it. That's a losing battle.

When my mind latches onto something that it needs or wants to contemplate-- like a client challenge, or an important personal matter-- I don't resist the inevitable. Rather, I use my meditation skills to work through the competing thoughts, in a thoughtful and reasoned way. As Sharon Salzburg put it, in a slightly different context: "We still fight. We just don't hate".

The "muscle memory" that we can grow and cultivate through meditation, allows us to observe the thoughts we're thinking-- to feel the emotions that we're feeling-- and let them pass, before they take root and hijack our ability to respond thoughtfully, rather than react reflexively.

That takes a lot of hard work, and a lot of practice. Exercising the "let it go muscle" regularly, can help us better manage difficult thoughts or emotions, but it doesn't come easily. As a profession, however, lawyers are not trained-- or naturally inclined-- to search for easy answers.

Contemplation has stood the legal profession well for centuries, and a regular meditation practice can be a wonderful complement -- it can certainly make for a more mindful (and more balanced) agency!


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