Recently, we saw a transition in the office of the president of the United States. Although this year the transition may have seemed precarious or uncertain, nonetheless, the inauguration occurred for the 46th president. That process and ceremony marked a period of new beginnings for the country. Regardless of where one stands on the political landscape of elections, the presidential transition and inauguration served as a moment of inspiration confirming the institutional safeguards of this country. It was also emblematic of newness and new beginnings for the country. It was historic in that we saw the swearing-in of the first female vice president of the United States, as well as the first person of color in the role of vice president of the United States. A new moment in history.
Springing Back to Life
The presidential inauguration isn’t the only thing that marks a period of new beginning and transition. Whereas the presidential inauguration generally occurs once every four years, spring comes around annually. Spring also marks a period of new beginnings and transitions. It is a season of new births. As lawyers being so focused on cases and clients, we risk not being mindful of the important transitions and beginnings that take place around us. But if we step back and view spring from a larger perspective, it is the cycle of nature that brings about new life and beginnings.
Think about it for a second. We have just emerged out of winter—a dead, barren period that does not support new plant life. The judgments of like or dislike that we place on this season notwithstanding, from a mere perspective of nature, new plant life will not make its entrance during winter. If we look back one season further to autumn, we will also see nature’s cycle is beginning to enter a period of decay. Leaves are falling, plants are dying, final crops are harvested, and daylight is beginning to wane. And then, looking back one more season, there’s summer. Long days, plenty of sunlight, sufficient temperatures, all in support of the full growth season established by nature. That brings us back to spring in this birth-growth-decay-death cycle of nature.
A Season for Mindfulness
The new beginnings of spring can also serve as a period to become more mindful. It doesn’t take a lot. We don’t have to become a yogi, nor do we need to become an expert in transcendental meditation. We just need to become focused and intentional about that which is around us—becoming more present in the moment.
We can start the journey by noticing. Noticing when our mind is racing, when our thoughts are scattered, when we are attempting to multitask on top of multitasking. That can serve as a trigger or prompt for us to divert our attention from busy-ness to focus. It’s all about being intentional, being present in the moment, and doing so in a non-judgmental way. When truly in that moment, you cannot focus on the past (that motion didn’t go my way) or the future (how will the court rule on my pending motion?). Your body is always and only in the present, but how often do you give your mind the privilege of only being in the present? Even when you are on vacation, on the beach with your favorite beverage at your side, you are likely in the present moment only a portion of the time.
Another trigger or prompting mechanism can be spring itself. Rather than reacting to the racing mind, as you exist within this season of new beginnings on a daily basis, be intentional about finding mindful moments in your daily encounter with nature. Take time to be in the moment: seeing each new day offering one more minute of daylight until summer begins; taking in the smell of budding tulips; watching bees go to and fro as they spread their love to plant life; and feeling the cooling, necessary rain that provides the liquid nourishment to the land. These are just a few examples of incorporating the practice of mindfulness with the new season of spring.
In those moments you are simply being and trying not to be concerned with doing. That is the essential key of a mindfulness practice. Just being in that singular moment without judgment. The moment is just the moment, nothing more and nothing less. It’s a place that hopefully you will soon become familiar with. They don’t have to last for hours, merely moments. It’s a place to give you space from the many other waking hours of your life that will be spent on making decisions, providing assessments, and offering judgments on matters big and small as they relate to the practice of law. That’s part of what we do as lawyers.
But it is the mindful moments in between that will reenergize us to better tend to our practice of law and our lives. These are not just aspirational platitudes. There are benefits to embracing the practice of mindfulness. Various studies have shown that mindfulness can positively impact creativity, enhance well-being, increase longevity, increase productivity, improve memory, reduce stress, and improve focus and attention. Not bad as outcomes, right? And I am not aware of a single study that showed the practice of mindfulness has a negative effect on physical or mental health or well-being.
So, how about it? If you have made it this far into this article in one sitting, now is the perfect time to try some mindfulness practices. Before you go on to the next article, take a moment to look up and look around. What do you notice? What do you hear? What do you smell? How does the temperature feel? Is there a picture or painting to focus on? Or a window to gaze out of? What do you see? Let all judgment go, just be in the moment. If your mind wanders a bit into that “thing,” that’s okay. Just acknowledge those thoughts and let them go and refocus on being in the moment—and don’t judge yourself. When you are ready, in your own time, come back to the tasks at hand—reenergized, renewed, and refreshed. Like spring birthing new life.