By Eva Marcotrigiano
originally appeared in The Multnomah Lawyer, September 2013 (http://www.mbabar.org/assets/ml_sep13_final.pdf)
Mind frantically racing, you are slumped over your desk amidst mounds of files. Productivity came to a halt a while ago, and yet a deadline still looms. You tried to take a walk down the hall to clear your head, but that proved fruitless and time is flying by. What is a lawyer to do?
In May, the MBA YLS Professional Development & Education Committee and the OSB Quality of Life Committee joined forces to present a onehour seminar for lawyers to learn mechanisms to move through such a rut. The ten Minute Fix
CLE, presented by attorney and yoga instructor Heather Decker and nurse-meditation instructor Kathleen Bell, focused on stressreduction techniques that can be performed at your desk in 10 minutes or less.
On a sunny day in Perkins Coie’s conference room, the presenters led lawyers through two relaxation breathing techniques, four chair yoga poses, and a simple meditation exercise. All of the techniques can be performed right in your office, with nothing but a chair. Notably, the techniques are also discreet, such that a colleague passerby may not even realize you are in the midst of refocusing.
For example, Heather Decker took us through the Three Part Breath: while seated, exhale completely. Inhale, bringing your breath all the way down into your belly. Inhale some more air, bringing it into your torso and lower chest area, expanding the sides and back of your rib cage to accommodate the breath. Bring a final inhale into your upper chest area, lifting your sternum to allow room for the air. Exhale slowly, in reverse – chest, torso, abdomen. After you have exhaled completely, repeat. Continue for five breath cycles.
As lawyers, we are mental workers. The idea behind practicing these simple methods at work is to create stillness in your body in order to create stillness in your mind. The techniques serve to downregulate your system, allowing it to reset as if you had taken a power nap. Through practice, you develop the capacity to tolerate and move through the chaos productively. Additionally, the techniques may be shared with clients to help them handle depositions, trial, or drawn-out negotiations.
The ten Minute Fix CLE was well-attended and well-received. Not only did participants leave with information and techniques to incorporate at work, but also with a revitalized sense of clarity and productivity for the rest of the workday.
For more information on breathing, mindfulness, and meditation, see: Perfect Breathing – transform your life one breath at a time (by Al Lee and Don Campbell; The Calm Technique(by Paul Wilson); Three Deep Breaths (by Thomas Crum); Mindfulness Improves Reading Ability, Working Memory and Task-Focus (article on uC Santa Barbara research findings); Mindfulness Practices to Take Control of Workplace Problems(Infographic at HuffingtonPost.com by Jeffrey Hunter); Buddha Had it Right: Relax the Mind and Productivity Will Follow (article on FastCompany.com by Faisal Hoque).