Saturday, October 30, 2010

Be the change . . .

We all know that Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I think this Mindful Lawyer Conference is a perfect example of that notion. Yesterday, the conference began, and the pre-conference mini-retreat was a 3-hour meditation, with some instruction, some silence, and some discussion. It set the conference tone - one of community and togetherness through paths other than the head/mind. Sitting there, I felt alive. I also felt a wave of emotion; wow, this is really happening, and there are other lawyers out there interested in the same ideas and ways of being as me - AND we are here together. I dare not say “all here” because I know there was quite a waiting list, and some people could not attend who I know would have loved to be here.

The plenary session last night involved an inspirational statement from the Dean of the UC Berkeley Law School (Boalt). He does not meditate (I do not think), but he understands the power of what this conference is about. His words were of gratitude for us utilizing his space and doing the work that we are doing. It was such a delight to hear that from the Dean of a top-tier law school. I know there are many others who believe as he does, but it is always such a pleasure to hear.

Norman Fischer, a renowned Zen Buddhist meditation teacher, spoke to us as did Charles Halpern, the man who began CUNY law school, focusing on public interest work, and brought the mindfulness class to Boalt. The piece that struck me the deepest was the discussion about the need for this in the legal profession. Mindfulness means many things, but one definition is being fully present with yourself so you learn to be fully present with others. At the dessert reception, I spoke with a fellow volunteer (a Boalt student), and she said that, for her, it all boils down to compassion and empathy. I could not agree more. Even the Dalai Lama says that his religion is compassion.

There was a time when meditation and yoga traditions were secret, passed from guru to student, in ashrams in the mountains. Many leaders, including BKS Iyengar and the Dalai Lama, however, realized that the world will not survive if these teachings do not reach the general public. The world is in such a state of disarray that, even if we cannot do these practices “perfectly” we must do them. We must connect, or we will destroy ourselves. So, as the speakers talked about the need for us to come together, and one of the members of the planning committee, Rhonda Magee, talked about the need for people of diverse and unique backgrounds to celebrate together, I felt a twinge of pride and love. These are the deepest teachings, and we are all in this together.

The rest of the conference is about the nitty-gritty of techniques and changes being utilized by lawyers, judges, and academics. I am excited to learn the techniques, the ways to implement these practices in my life and my work, but the opening plenary was about all of us making a commitment just to “be” at the conference. We were asked to use our cell phones away from each other, or not at all and to eat lunch close by the conference to facilitate discussion. In other words, we were asked to be the change we want to see - a community learning from each other mindfully and together.

I’m off to teach the morning yoga class (which should be fun - I sprained my ankle yesterday). Do not forget to follow the conference on Twitter at #mlc10.

Namaste and Blessings.

© 2010, Rebecca Stahl all rights reserved.


  1. Thanks for spreading the word here (and for being the change you want to see), Rebecca. It was a great conference and I felt privileged to be a part of it. Peace, Jennifer (Drobac-- Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis)

  2. Thank you, Jennifer. I am sorry we did not get a chance to connect in person at the conference, but I am so grateful to have been a part of the conference.