Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A mental exercise

The third kosha, or layer/sheath, is the mental body, the Manomaya kosha. It is the kosha where most of us live most of our lives. It is where we determine that we are an “I” that is different than “the other(s).” It is where we live in the future and the past, instead of the present. It also includes our five senses, so deeper than the physical kosha, but still that which literally separates us from the rest of the world, but begins to connect us to it. It is how we interact with the world within our body.

I will probably spend at least two posts covering this kosha, so today, I want to discuss a concept that has been rolling around in my mental body for quite some time.

I loved law school. I know it sounds crazy, but I did. And I mean loved it; I loved the intellectual rigor, the theory, the discussions, and even moot court, where we got to argue pretend cases before pretend judges. I loved being asked to take a side - at times both sides of an issue and turn it into the winning argument. I loved writing and arguing cases in these mock situations. It gave me the sort of joy and motivation to keep going through what was a very rigorous and difficult three years of intellectual training. In short, it was fun and exciting.

It was nothing like doing it for real.

I do not mean that you cannot get that joy and excitement from the practice of law in the real world. Quite the contrary - many people thrive on it. They go into court believing in their client, their client’s story, and they think they cannot lose - no matter what. These are the people like David Boies who take only the big cases, and then take them all the way to the Supreme Court. I used to think I would love to be that kind of lawyer, the intellectual rigor of the profession being my motivation every day.

But then I realized the biggest difference between law school and the legal profession - real people. In law school, I remember reading cases with horrific facts - people being catapulted out of cars, falling down manholes, being questioned by the police without just cause, and the list goes on. I remember arguing that a school district had no duty to protect a homosexual student from tormenting by his peers (the side I was assigned to argue). I also remember stopping and thinking to myself that these were real people. These are not stories made up at a computer late at night but people whose lives were forever shattered.

When representing real people, seeing them in court, and knowing the destruction the legal world can have on them, the mental games stop being so fun and exciting. In family court, especially, where I spend so much of my time, this adversarial process is not only unworkable, it can be downright inhumane.

Like most people in the modern world, I spend a great deal of my life in the mental kosha. I thrive there. But yoga has helped me open up to the other koshas - the physical, the breath, and into the meditative and the divine. The mind is the great in-between. It is in the mental kosha that we go from being individuals to interconnected to the universe. It is here where we can get stuck, where we can ignore the fact that what might be a fun intellectual game is causing distress to the world. It is here where we can stop and realize that as much fun as it is to argue, there are consequences to that choice.

This has been a hard realization for me. As I find myself more and more dedicated to changing the way we do family law in this country - and perhaps law in general - I have had to struggle with the fact that I really enjoy it for all the reasons that practicing attorneys enjoy the current system. Intellectually, it is wonderful. But that cannot be the final reason we do what we do. I have learned, in the past two years of seeing real families day-after-day, that we all eventually have to move past our mental kosha and deeper into our connection to each other.

Interestingly, this is one area where the law and yoga have informed each other back and forth in my life, and I am grateful to each of them for giving me the opportunity to enjoy the mental games while learning that there is so much more. What mental stops do you find in your life? How do you work through them?


© 2010 Rebecca Stahl, all rights reserved