Friday, October 24, 2014

Five Years . . . Where Has the Time Gone?

I started writing this blog five years ago. It has been an incredible journey. I started writing it while working as a law clerk at the Arizona Court of Appeals and during my Yoga Teacher Training. I wanted this blog to be a place to bridge the chasm between law and yoga. And what a roller coaster we have had.

First – why write a blog at all? I mean, why share our lives with one another? Why put it all out there on the interwebs, potentially forever, for the world to see? There is no question nearly everyone shares too much in the digital age. But we hear so much about the downsides to that, what are the upsides?

Writing this blog has introduced me to other lawyers doing mindfulness work and yoga. As a result of this blog, I attended the Mindful Lawyers Conference. It gave me hope about the legal profession at a time when I was unsure what my future would be like. It has connected me to friends here in Tucson and around the world. Sometimes, I learn a lot myself from writing. Sometimes, I write for my own inspiration. And sometimes, I write because it makes me feel good to share some information with the world, even if only one other person sees it.

The blog has had many themes. I have talked about yoga philosophy and anatomy. I have written about earthquakes and lessons from traveling. I have gone from a relatively outside role in the legal world as a law clerk and an LLM student to a practicing litigator in a juvenile court representing abused and neglected children.

In other words – life has changed. In fact, the only constant in my life these past five years has been this blog.

When I started writing this blog I thought yoga could cure any ill. I believed we could always find the breath no matter how far gone our lives seemed to be. I saw the community building aspects of yoga that helped take me out of my shell and probably made me a better lawyer. I thought bringing yoga to the legal profession would change it. I believed that so much I used to teach Stress Management workshops for lawyers and other professionals. I remember those days and think how wonderful it would be to continue to do that along with my work. It all comes back to being that bridge.

Today I am in a very different place than I was back when this blog began. My work life has taken over my yoga life. It used to be the other way around. People have asked me how I studied for two bar exams, and my response has always been, “I did a lot of yoga.” But today, that is not where I am. I have drifted, and sometimes I feel like a fraud writing on this blog because things have changed so much, and I wonder whether stopping writing is the answer. But then I remember, this writing has been my constant. Even when I am not sure what direction to go, I can turn back here and write.

Back when I started writing I thought these lessons were easy. I know now they are far from easy. Simple? Maybe, but only maybe. But definitely not easy. The world makes these lessons difficult to practice, and there is far more suffering in the world than I could potentially fathom back then. But my yoga background, and writing this blog, has brought me back time and time again to the knowledge that healing on all levels is possible. The universe wants healthy beings within it, and when we tune in to what our hearts are telling us is right, the answers come for our healing. Stopping and listening is the hardest part, but it is possible. And people need to hear that message.

Writing has been my way of sharing that message. As I have said many times before, the idea came to me during savasana (corpse pose) during one of my teacher training classes. “Lawyers need this. I’m going to write a blog and share it.” And writing is a form of yoga, of spirit, of connection. Even when depleted by modern life, the yoga bucket is never completely empty. It is like the little candle in the corner of a dark room that eventually lights the entire room. Darkness is not actually real. It is just an absence of light, so even the smallest amount of light makes for brightness in the darkness.

And perhaps that is the lesson of these past five years. Deep down I know that my mission on this Earth is to continue to be the bridge between the worlds represented by yoga and the law. That can mean “regular” society and a more spiritual realm, or that can mean western forms of healing and more holistic forms of healing, or that can literally mean bringing yoga to lawyers and other professionals as I continue to do every year at my favorite conference of the year – the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts conference.

There is one more piece to this puzzle. I represent children. What I hoped to bring to my practice was not only an ability to give legal advice and advocate for my clients in court, but also an ability to really be with my clients, understand them, and help them better navigate the difficult process of the legal world. At one level, I certainly do that – just about any lawyer does that. But I wanted my yoga background to be a part of my lawyer practice. Most days, this is what I feel is missing. I do not think a week goes by where I do not have a child crying in front of me or asking me when he or she is going to go home to parents I know the child will never live with again. There is no easy way to answer those questions. But there is presence. And yoga has taught me that. Some days I can do it. Some days less so. It is not a legal skill. It is a human skill.

And that is my intention going into this next year. If this blog has taught me (and hopefully the readers) anything, it is that even when we are completely spent and it feels as though nothing is left, we always have our breath and we always have that little light inside us to guide us to the next day. We always have the ability to be present with those around us . . . including ourselves. I have no idea where these next five years will take me, but I do know that this blog, and what I have learned writing it and sharing through it, will be my guide.

I vow to bring my breath into my legal practice more and my heart to my clients more. I vow to take some of my own advice and actually take a moment to really relax, not just pretend to relax while checking Facebook. And I vow to always remember that the truth I hold inside is Truth – the body and soul can truly heal from anything with the right tools and the right support.

So thank you to everyone who reads this, whether this is the only post, or you have read every single one. Thank you for the support and the caring. This has been my path to sharing this information with the world, and I hope to continue on this path going forward.


© Rebecca Stahl 2014, all rights reserved.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Finding Nourishment

There are certain words and ideas that show up in my life at various times. Recently, the word has been nourishment. It is a word I had barely heard prior to my yoga days. Of course, I knew certain things could be nourishing, but I did not really understand what that meant. Sometimes, I am still not sure I do. But I certainly have a better idea than I used to.

Nourishment is the deepest way of caring for ourselves. It is how we refill our yoga bucket. Nourishment is not about the craving of the day; instead it is about loving ourselves and others in a way that supports healing and growth. It is the feeling of comfort food that does not just fill our stomachs but also warms and fills our souls.

The desert, in all its beauty, can be very depleting. It is dry all the time, even when the monsoons come, there is a sense that the water is wasted because it cannot be absorbed as it needs to be. With record rain recently, Tucson and Phoenix simply flooded. Summer in the desert is very harsh. It is a time when we need to nourish ourselves more. But even in the winter, when we feel so good because it is cooler, the desert is still the desert, and the air and land can be very depleting.

On top of the Earth being depleting, our modern culture can be very depleting. One of the most common ways we nourish ourselves is with food, but we live in a world where food has lost its nourishing qualities. Instead of sitting down to eat and savor what is in front of us, we stare at screens, eat in our cars or desks, or eat food that would not be recognizable as food to our ancestors. When was the last time you sat and savored what you were eating?

This world in which we live calls us to find new ways to nourish ourselves. It calls us to slow down enough to understand what we need to find nourishment and how we can go about getting it. Discovering this takes stillness. It means being quiet long enough to listen. Imagine a newborn baby who is crying. We first try holding him, then rocking him, then feeding him, then changing him until something eventually works to calm him down. But we all know that if we get overwhelmed and nervous before the baby calms, then we halt the chances the baby will stop crying. While we are looking for the answer, we have to remain calm and collected. That is not easy when a baby is screaming, you want to stop it, and you have no idea what to do.

At our most basic level, we are still those newborn babies. We have to give ourselves the same calm and collected attention. We have to genuinely want to help nourish ourselves in order to find exactly what will be most nourishing. Interestingly, I first started writing this post a month ago, but I could not find the words to finish it. My life has not been very full of nourishing qualities recently.

The last post on this blog was The Ahimsa Challenge in which I challenged myself and others to really look at nonviolence in our lives and how to attain and obtain it. So, in this post, I want to ask you what you do to nourish yourself. It is no secret that one of my favorite forms of nourishment is hugging trees. But there are so many others. More and more research is coming out about the importance of being with friends and having loved ones in our lives. I have recently had a doctor twice tell me that hug therapy would help my back pain. And we all can find a way to eat food that fulfills our hunger needs more than our emotional needs.

Nourishment is about finding what it is we really need. It requires listening and then doing what is not “normal” in societal terms. Nourishment means listening to our bodies and our hearts in ways we did not grow up learning was possible. Nourishment is really about finding safety. It is when we feel the most nourished that we feel the most safe. We go back to being that crying baby when we feel under nourished, but we become just like a swaddled baby once we find our nourishment.

What do you do for nourishment? What one item can you add to your routine to help you feel more nourished?


© Rebecca Stahl 2014, all rights reserved.

The post, Finding Nourishment, first appeared on Is Yoga Legal.