Well, amidst finals (and this time is the last time…) I’ve been re-calibrating from an amazing trip. It was four days spent at a Zen center just outside of San Francisco, essentially in the middle of a Redwood forest. What for, you ask? For inspiration, collaboration and re-generation. My time was spent with around 30 lawyers and law students, all at different points in their lives and careers. Not everyone is even studying law in a formal school environment. These are out-there folks doing incredible things… From conscious contracts to restorative justice to sharing law and mindfulness education, my sense of why I am entering this field and how I fit into it were strengthened through the community we all formed. One exercise we did had us rely on each other to provide personal & professional coaching. After a guided meditation on what moves us in life — what is our power — and how we may be stuck or suffering in the process, I drew a picture. This is what I shared with my group as a way of framing the inner-conflict I’ve experienced while in law school and when anticipating what it would be like to become a “real” lawyer.
As you can hopefully see, there are two images at play. The first is a brain in a jar. Think Krang from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (the diabolical brain — literally — whose mission was to take over the world). If you require more imagery here go ahead & run a Google image search… Or, check out my take on the theme of a being that feels stripped of its body and soul. Mine is not so nefarious looking, but it is stark nonetheless. Often, when I’ve studied for exams or especially first or second year, when I’ve needed to just keep cranking no matter how ‘out of my body’ I’ve felt, this is the image that has come to mind. Feeling like the whole value I bring to this model of education has been focused on the strictly cerebral exercises we are forced to engage in without the “human component” that reminds us of why we are needed as lawyers, and how it possible for us to engage with our clients and society overall. Because in “real” life there is a need for bodies to be engaged; there is a need for the soul of a person, their emotions, to play a role in whatever job is being performed.
Intelligence is multi-faceted and simply the rote memorization of rules or facts do not add up at the end of the day to a job well done. It certainly does not seem to make lawyers happy. So what does seem to make them — me — happy? Feeling like I am growing. Being enabled to “open” and reveal what it is that makes me a valuable asset to whomever I am working for or collaborating with. The image here is of a flower. Not necessarily one in full bloom (yet) but one that is making its way toward the light and offering itself in an authentic way to the world.
Now, in my final week of exams, every time I begin to feel like that brain in a jar, every time I find myself conjuring up that image or telling myself that story about what it is like to be me at this moment, I shift and remember the flower. I remember there is a whole other story that parallels my journey of the mind. That is the one where I live through creative expression, even when it comes to analyzing the law. And where I practice opening, not staying closed, in everything I do. This is the story I want to be living in and out of as I graduate.