Much like the appearance of the Seven Dwarfs in Snow White, each with his own particular characteristics, throughout the annals of history the appearance of any one or all of Greedy, Grumpy, Slothful, Anxious, and/or Doubtful reflects patterned responses to adversity that trip us up in our daily lives. What is your “go-to” response when adversity strikes, such as when you lose a critical motion, a client fires you, you screw up on a contract, you get a flat tire on the way to a meeting, or you encounter really anything that you perceive to be a major obstacle? Is it desire (aka “retail therapy”)? You just can’t deal with the problem until a material want is satisfied? What about aversion (including hatred, anger, fear or impatience—aka “kicking the cat”)? Do you yell and scream at your co-workers, client, strangers, or take it out on anyone in your path? Or what about our good friend sloth (aka the “ostrich”)? Do you just call in sick and bury your head under your pillow for a while in an effort to avoid, at least temporarily, addressing the issue? How about anxiety (aka “Murphy’s Law”)? Do you go into a downward spiral where you imagine everything else that could go wrong and believe that it will? Or is it doubt that knocks on your door? Do you begin to question why you even became a lawyer in the first place? One or more of these patterned responses could be preventing you from resolving difficult issues in a manner befitting the competent, capable lawyer you are.
As Sharon Salzberg states in her book Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation (Workman, 2010), no matter how many hindrances arise in the mind, we need to stop the blame (ourselves) game, and see that these are just passing mind states. We get so wrapped up in our story that we react without realizing that we are filling our story with all sorts of “add-ons” that have no bearing in reality. As Mark Twain once said, “I am an old man and have known many troubles, but most of them never happened.”
With mindfulness, we can distinguish the actual experience from the stories we are telling ourselves. With mindfulness meditation we can observe what we are feeling with interest, curiosity, and compassion, and then let our feelings go. So rather than letting Greedy, Grumpy, Slothful, Anxious, and/or Doubtful take control, we can take control of our thoughts, stop the spiral, and respond with more clarity. So let’s try and stop the spiral right now.
- Begin by sitting in a comfortable but upright and stable position.
- Close or lower your eyes and bring your attention to your breath. Notice any sensations you have in your body, notice any emotions that creep in, and notice any of the “add-ons” or internal stories that come up.
- When your mind wanders away, and it will, notice where your mind has wandered and gently bring it back.
- Try this for a few moments.
The more directly we connect with our thoughts, feelings, and experiences through a mindfulness practice, the more powerfully proactive we become—we can make informed, better choices, and not just be driven by unexamined habits. Greedy, Grumpy, Slothful, Anxious, Doubtful—it’s time to pack your bags, there is a new sheriff in town! It’s the better, more mindful you!