"You are the only lawyer I actually like." This is one of the most disheartening sentences I hear, and I hear it often. Lawyers get a bad rap. Yes, there are lawyers who are unethical. Yes, there are lawyers who are only out to make a buck and ride the ethical line as though it were a tightrope. But like so many professions, there are amazingly good people who are lawyers. From Gandhi to many of the people working in Legal Aid to the people in large, civil litigation firms who use their jobs to help people navigate the fearful and uncertain legal world. All of these people are lawyers, and all of them aim to really help people. And while I hope to be a lawyer that people can and will respect, I sure hope that I am not the only one. Being a lawyer is an amazing profession, and it is through misconceptions about all lawyers based upon hearsay about some laywers that provides the lawyer misconception.
When I tell people I do yoga, the most often reaction I get is that I must be really flexible. When I tell people I don't really exercise, if they know me, their first reaction is, "but you do yoga." As I have said before, yoga is not just about the asana to me (though as I also said before, the asana practice has new meaning for me). Yogis come in all shapes and sizes, all degrees of flexibility, and all degrees of standing-on-one-hand-while-their-legs-are-in-full-lotus ability. Those who can barely touch the floor in a forward fold probably outnumber those who can even put one leg behind their head. The covers of many yoga magazines and the image of Jennifer Aniston selling her yoga teacher provide the yoga misconception.
The general misconception, then, about lawyers is that all of them embody this evil empire, with no regard to the rest of the world. The general misconception about yogis, then, is that they all embody the ability to reach their legs over their heads while standing on one finger. Of course, neither is true. So what do we do about it?
Yoga teaches us to look inside - of ourselves and of others. Nearly all yoga classes end with a simple gesture - a head bow -and word - "Namaste." Namaste has many, many meanings, but it essentially means, "from the light that is within me, I honor the light that is within you." We learn to see that this light really does shine within us all, and once we begin to see that, we can move beyond these misconceptions. Then why do I hear from so many yogis that I am the only lawyer they like? Well, we're all human, and yoga is not an overnight answer to our societal misconceptions.
Again, what can we do about it? Most importantly, we can live our own truths. Good lawyers can continue to help those in need, whether that need is civil rights or a contract dispute - both are noble. Struggling yogis can continue to struggle, whether with a forward fold or meditating for more than five minutes - both are part of yoga. Living these truths will allow more and more people to see that they exist. Holding them, taking pride in them, and being them, will prove to others that they are really the foundation of the law and yoga. The law is essentially about doing good, and yoga is essentially a practice, not perfection. Thus, these misconceptions lead to misunderstanding the heart of both worlds, not just individuals within them. The more people that vocalize their truths, against the grain of yoga magazines and Enron scandals, the more people outside those worlds will learn to appreciate the truth.
This blog began as a way for me to honor both of these worlds, and to help me find a way to understand what drives these misconceptions, and therefore, ways that we might debunk them. I find it my job to defend lawyers to yogis and vice versa, but instead I want it to be my job to bring them together. Recognizing the inherent misconceptions is the first step. I want to learn to fully embrace the fact that I care deeply about people and the law, and I want to fully embrace the fact that my leg hurts in asana practice and my mind wanders in meditation. It will get better, and I will find a way to ensure that families and children are treated well in the legal profession. (Disclaimer: there are many noble paths in the law, including civil litigation, but my path is with children and families.)
Thank you all for your support and love. In what ways do you find yourself believing that which you know is not true about an entire group? Do you find yourself caught up in that misconception about yourself? Do you hold yourself to a higher standard as a result? As always, comments are welcome and appreciated.
Namaste and Blessings!
© Copyright 2009. Rebecca Stahl. All Rights Reserved.