Meditation could be a helpful tool for lawyers struggling with crippling stress and anxiety, but most are intimidated by the idea or don’t know where to start. In this episode of The Florida Bar Podcast from the 2018 Annual Florida Bar Convention, host Christine Bilbrey talks to Jeena Cho about how meditation helped her with her stress and how other attorneys can implement it in their practice. She ends the episode with a two minute meditation practice for those who want to see what typical meditation feels like.
Jeena Cho is the author of two books: The Anxious Lawyer, An 8-Week Guide to a Joyful and Satisfying Law Practice Through Mindfulness and Meditation, and How to Manage Your Law Office.
The Florida Bar Podcast
2018 Annual Florida Bar Convention: Wellness Through Meditation
Intro: Welcome to The Florida Bar Podcast, where we highlight the latest trends in law office and law practice management to help you run your law firm, brought to you by The Florida Bar’s Practice Resource Institute. You are listening to Legal Talk Network.
Christine Bilbrey: Hello and welcome to The Florida Bar Podcast brought to you by the Practice Resource Institute on Legal Talk Network. This is Christine Bilbrey recording from the 2018 Annual Florida Bar Convention in Orlando, Florida. Thanks for joining us today.
I am excited to welcome a special guest. She was a keynote speaker for us yesterday and well-known speaker and author Jeena Cho. She is the author of ‘The Anxious Lawyer’. And you may recognize her name; she did a lot of work for us for the Young Lawyers Division. So welcome Jeena.
Jeena Cho: Thank you so much for having me.
Christine Bilbrey: So tell our listeners that may not be aware of your work a little bit about yourself and how you got into this.
Jeena Cho: Sure. So I am a bankruptcy lawyer from San Francisco and I practice with my husband and I started practicing mindfulness and meditation because I was struggling with overwhelming anxiety and I didn’t even know that that’s really what was happening was overwhelming anxiety.
I actually became very alarmed when I started losing clumps of hair and I went to a doctor, he ran every test and he said Jeena, there is nothing physically wrong with you. And a friend of mine at the time, who is a psychotherapist said, Jeena, I think you might have an anxiety disorder. And I said no, I don’t, I am a lawyer. Lawyers don’t get anxiety disorders. But I was eventually diagnosed with social anxiety disorder and one of the treatment protocol was to learn how to practice mindfulness and meditation, so that’s how I got into it.
Christine Bilbrey: Excellent. And unfortunately, we have seen all the statistics from the studies that have come out. So in this regard you are not special, so many attorneys are struggling with depression and anxiety and it’s affecting their work, it’s affecting their lives. So for those who are very skeptical, they don’t like crunchy granola solutions to their problems, what do you say to them?
Jeena Cho: Yeah. So when I talk about mindfulness and meditation, really what I am talking about is training your mind for optimal performance, and I know that for a lot of lawyers they think oh, meditation, it’s something that those meditation gurus do, but it’s not for me. But if you think about it, your mind is your most important tool that you use as a lawyer and so of course you would train it. If you are an athlete, you would train your body for outdoor performance, so we can do the same thing with our mind.
Christine Bilbrey: So yesterday when you spoke and I believe it was at the Judicial Reception, you were the keynote speaker, what were the most important points that you hope that audience took away after hearing you?
Jeena Cho: Yeah. So I basically had three different call to action. One was we know statistically speaking somewhere from 30-40% of that room are struggling with chronic stress, chronic anxiety, depression, substance or alcohol abuse. So I think one of the most vulnerable and courageous thing we can do as lawyers is to say hey, I need help. I thought that I did not want to get help, I didn’t think that I had a problem and I thought if I say that I have a problem, I would be perceived as being weak or ineffective as a lawyer. But I think we can’t get well until we are willing to say hey, I need help, and there is no shame in that.
The study suggests that people with anxiety disorder, which by the way, it’s one of the most treatable mental health issues out there, it takes about five to ten years before they get help.
And the same was true for me. It probably took at least five, seven years before I was willing to say I need help, and I think that’s really unfortunate, because I know that there are other lawyers out there, probably lawyers in that room that are struggling, that are suffering, that are just trying to hold it altogether, but it doesn’t have to be that way. This journey can be made so much easier by just reaching out. That was my first call to action.
And the second one was to reach out to colleagues that we suspect they are having trouble. So my friend, who is a therapist, she was very persistent in saying hey, you should get help and I did not grab her hand as she was extending it out to me for a long time. Don’t be surprised if you reach out to a colleague and you say hey, what can I do to help? I see that you are struggling. They may be like I am not struggling. They may be in deep denial. So that’s also part of the equation.
And third is to practice that ongoing self-care, so putting yourself first, recognizing that we can’t pour from an empty vessel and that practicing self-care does not make you selfish.
So those were sort of my three big takeaways from the talk.
Christine Bilbrey: I think you have a lot of credibility, because you are a fellow attorney and so every time an attorney finally says I got help and I am doing really well, it destigmatizes it. You are probably reaching someone who was in that five to seven year period of wasted time and if you are billing by the hour, that’s a lot of wasted hours in those years.
But I love your analogy of training your brain. So can you give us a little sample, and I do want to say if you are driving, keep your eyes open, but if somebody wants to just because if they have had no contact with this, I think that’s scary to take the first step, so can you show us how simple it is?
Jeena Cho: Sure. So we can just do a two-minute practice right now. Again, for those people that are driving, don’t do this while driving, come back another time. So first when we meditate, we want to actually set up our posture. So often we are hunched over and we are working on our computer, so actually rolling the shoulders back and opening up the chest area.
And then once you feel settled, allowing the eyes to close. And we are going to start this practice by taking three deep breaths of breathing in and breathing out, breathing in, breathing out, and one more, breathing in and breathing out and now allowing your breath to return back to normal.
And so when we meditate we use the breath, which is constantly with us, you can’t leave home without it, it’s an anchor, so that we can pay attention to what is happening in this moment.
So taking the next few moments just to be with the breath. There is no need to change how you are breathing in any way; the body knows how to breathe and just giving yourself this moment to practice the art of non-doing and non-striving. And now let’s close the practice by beginning to wiggle the fingers and toes and moving your body in any way that feels good to you. And when you feel ready, allow the eyes to open.
Christine Bilbrey: So if you just followed along with Jeena, you should feel refreshed, as I do. It’s better than a second cup of coffee. And it’s funny because I think people are so resistant to it and attorneys, because I bet while they were trying to do it they were thinking about their cases and it was floating into their head. So what do you tell people that are working with you who say I can’t shut my brain off to do this?
Jeena Cho: Yeah, that’s one of the biggest misnomer when it comes to meditation. Your mind will do its thing, it will continue to think, it will continue to daydream, worry, make your to-do list, make your grocery list, so on and so forth, and that’s part of the practice. We actually want to get to know our mind as it is, so when it becomes distracted, when you are sitting with your client, but your mind is going through your to-do list, often we don’t even recognize that the mind is doing that. So the more familiar we can become with our habitual patterns, the more we actually have a choice of doing something different.
So mindfulness is often talked about as the ability to add a moment of pause between the stimulus and the reaction, which then becomes a response.
Christine Bilbrey: And I think that it makes you a better listener, because if you are doing that, you are being fully present for your clients and for your family, and I think that’s a gift, especially for mental health. I think people really, really need to be listened to. So you are doing something good for yourself and you are doing something good for the person that’s with you in that moment. I think that’s a wonderful thing. And if you are doing that several times a day, everyone is going to benefit from that. Very important. Thank you for taking us through that.
Jeena Cho: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Christine Bilbrey: So if our listeners want to find out more about the work that you are doing, how can they reach you?
Jeena Cho: They can go to my website, it’s HYPERLINK “http://www.jeenacho.com” jeenacho.com.
Christine Bilbrey: Excellent. And is your book available on Amazon?
Jeena Cho: Yes, it’s available on Amazon and also at the ABA Bookstore.
Christine Bilbrey: And give us the whole title.
Jeena Cho: It’s ‘The Anxious Lawyer: An 8-Week Guide to a Joyful and Satisfying Law Practice Through Mindfulness and Meditation’.
Christine Bilbrey: Excellent. So if you want to be more joyful or you just want to train your brain so that you become even more of a super lawyer, I would highly recommend this.
So this has been another edition of The Florida Bar Podcast brought to you by The Practice Resource Institute on Legal Talk Network. Thank you to Jeena Cho for joining us.
If you liked what you heard today, please find us and rate us in iTunes. I am Christine Bilbrey. Until next time, thank you for listening.
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