Editorial note: Former Halliwells trainee Marc Piano knows a thing or two about handling stress, as he explained last month when he charted his experiences of the now defunct law firm’s collapse. These days Marc is practising Buddhism in south east Asian monasteries. From Myanmar, he brings Britain’s stressed-out lawyers some tips on how to relax.
Law is stressful. Anyone who has spent a decent amount of time working in a law firm knows that. But managed properly, stress doesn’t have to be a problem. If it’s not managed properly, it can spiral into depression and potentially suicide. There are many different ways of coping with stress. I’m going to discuss meditation, which works for me.
Meditation is surprisingly simple, yet difficult to practise with diligence. There are numerous studies showing the benefits of meditation. It’s a contemplative practice that is universal to the world’s major religions, but requires no religion, dogma or articles of faith to perform.
You don’t need expensive equipment or gadgets nor do you need to attend a lengthy course. You can practise for however long you want, whenever you want. One famous monk said, "If you have time to breathe, you have time to meditate". You don’t have to have a teacher – though it can help – or do a retreat in the Himalayas.
You can also meditate standing, walking, sitting or lying down, meaning that you can even take five minutes at your desk to close your eyes and give it a try; or practice as soon as you wake up or before going to bed. If you incorporate it into your daily routine as a regular practice, you will experience its benefits. It’s cumulative and requires patience, so stick with it even if it feels frustrating at first.
The only real drawback to meditation for a lawyer is that it’s non-chargeable...
There are lots of different techniques, so you can practise in whatever way floats your boat. I’m going to give you one very basic technique to get you started with sitting meditation:
1. Find a quiet place (or put earplugs/earphones in at work to dull the noise).
2. Set your alarm for 5 minutes from now.
3. Sit with a straight back – a cushion on the floor or on a chair is fine. Place your hands together in your lap or on the ends of your knees – whatever you prefer.
4. Close your eyes lightly.
5. Bring your attention to either the tip of the nose, noticing the sensations as the breath enters and leaves the body through the nose. Alternatively, bring your attention to the rising and falling of your abdomen with each in and out breath.
6. When your mind starts to wander (as it will), simply bring it back to the tip of the nose or your abdomen.
7. Repeat until end of session.
That’s it. No fancy techniques, thinking, not thinking, special mantras or licensed music required. Free, simple and portable. Let me know how you get on.