As you probably know by now, mindfulness can be developed through a meditation-based practice that helps you connect to the present moment, manage your stress, ease negative emotions (like stress, anger, and frustration) and help you to improve professionally. The basic mindfulness mediation involves a simple practice: focusing on your breath.
But there are many other options. Each type of meditation has a different effect, and you may want to choose a meditation based on your current situation or desired result. Below are just a few of the options available, and there are many free guided meditations online to help you explore what might work for you.
Stress Relief Meditation
Use when you are stressed or anxious
If you suddenly find yourself in a stressful situation during the workday—and there are many of these when you’re practicing law—you need to gain control of your physiological response fast. A short meditation in which you exhale for a longer count than your inhale signals to your body that it’s time to relax and will get you in the right frame of mind to handle the situation at hand. On your inhales, count to four. On your exhales, count to eight and imagine that you are exhaling your negative experience or emotion. This exercise also works if you need to calm down when you are angry.
Body Scan Meditation
Use when you need to unwind after a stressful day or have trouble sleeping
After a long day in the office or in court, it’s often difficult to unwind or sleep well. A body scan meditation eases tension, allows deeper relaxation, and promotes better sleep. It also increases your awareness of and connection with your body. In this meditation, you systematically focus on a single part of your body at a time, starting with the crown of your head and incrementally moving down to your toes. Focus on an area for several breaths before moving on to the next. When you notice an area is tense or otherwise uncomfortable, breathe into that part of your body (imagine sending your breath to that area) and imagine that area relaxing as you breathe out. Because your attention is trained on a cascade of body parts, body scan meditations are also a good choice if you have a hard time simply focusing on your breath or brushing away your thoughts as they creep into your consciousness during a meditation.
Loving Kindness and Self-Compassion Meditations
Use when you have an interpersonal conflict
Lawyers are often overworked and stretched thin, which can lead to irritability and leave little room for compassion towards others. This can cause you to snap at your officemate or unleash on an unwitting barista who inadvertently messed up your order. Loving kindness meditations can cultivate and increase your capacity for compassion for others, including obnoxious adversaries or that guy in your office you just can’t stand. These meditations have been found to promote positive thoughts and actions towards others. They also increase overall happiness by making you feel more connected to others and by promoting a caring attitude. Loving kindness meditations generally involve visualizing a person or group of people, mentally acknowledging them, and repeating a series of phrases sending them goodwill and kindness.
Use when you don’t have time to meditate or have trouble sitting still
Not all mindfulness practice involves sitting still with your eyes closed. You can practice mindfulness while engaging in your everyday tasks (like brushing your teeth, eating, or walking home from work), as long you do them with intention and focus on a single task at a time. As you mindfully engage in an activity, focus on the immediate sensations. For example, if you are eating an apple, pay attention to the crunch of the apple when you bite it, feel your teeth pierce the flesh, taste the juice flowing into your mouth, and feel the cool skin of the apple in the palm of your hand. You can also practice mindfulness any time you are walking somewhere by paying attention to the positive things around you. As you notice your surroundings, acknowledge in your mind each thing in isolation—the sound of birds chirping, the smell of freshly cut grass, the beauty of historic architecture. If you start taking your surroundings for granted, try taking a different route.
Make a commitment to yourself that the next time you’re in one of the situations described above, you’ll try one of the meditation types.