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Lions Roar : May 2010
SHAMBHALA SUN MAy 2010 77 but there’s no focus on dealing with the intense emotions involved in this work.” Lawyers who come to retreats are looking for ways to integrate the work they’re doing with the other parts of their life, so their work “is not cut off from who they are as a core human being.” Lawyers often deal with nasty people and hot disputes and they are taught to meet fire with fire, but that struggle often brings deep pain and burnout. In using contemplative techniques, Chermak says, law- yers may discover a way to be “fierce, even warrior-like if need be, but in a way that is also wise and kind.” The Law Program’s annual retreat is on hiatus this year. Instead, the focus is on a ma- jor conference, “Meditation in Law: shar- ing Current Practices and Mapping Future horizons,” cosponsored by the Baldy Cen- ter of the University at Buffalo law school, where it will be held in early october. The conference, Chermak says, “brings together lawyers, law professors, judges, mediators, dispute resolution practitioners, and law students, whatever their level of familiarity with mindfulness. We’ll seek to create op- portunities for cutting-edge research on meditation in the legal profession and start a leadership group to promote the continuing presence of meditation in the law.” It will be the first major gather- ing of its kind since harvard Law school offered a symposium on Mindfulness and alternative Dispute Resolution in 2002. RoBERT ChENDER has BEEN practicing meditation as long as he has been practicing law, more than thirty years. Recently he has been trying to bring together these two important parts of his life. In september 2008, he decided to attend a retreat sponsored by the Law Program at Menla Mountain Retreat Center in Phoe- nicia, New York. after that, Chender says, he felt even more sure that “it would be useful to create a way for New York lawyers to TRaDITIoNaL LEgaL TRaININg focuses on overcoming external challenges. Now, an increasing number of lawyers are training themselves to work on their inner challenges in an effort to improve their law practice, benefit clients and col- leagues, provide better training for other lawyers, and, ulti- mately, yield better justice. The leading initiative in this area is the Law Program of the Center for Contemplative Mind in society, headquartered in Northampton, Massachusetts. The program sponsors annual re- treats and other gatherings for lawyers, judges, professors, and students. It held its first retreat in 1998, for Yale Law school stu- dents and faculty, led by mindfulness luminary Joseph goldstein. The program has held over twenty retreats and events since, in- cluding its flagship annual retreat for legal professionals at spirit Rock Meditation Center in Marin County. In 2008-2009, the program held retreats on both the East and West Coasts. The re- treats combine sitting and walk- ing meditation, yoga, qigong, speakers, and discussion. The Law Program’s leading light is Charles halpern, a re- nowned public interest lawyer who is chair of the board of the Center for Contemplative Mind in society. In 1982 when he be- came the founding dean of the City University of New York’s law school, he started practic- ing meditation to work with the resulting stress. since 2002, he’s been leading a weekly meditation group at Boalt hall, the law school at the University of California at Berkeley, together with Doug Chermak, the Law Program’s director. Chermak, an environmental lawyer in oakland, told me that the crux of the Law Program is “effective and sustainable lawyer- ing” and “the meditative perspective,” the view that a practitio- ner of a contemplative discipline brings to their professional and personal life. he says the central question is, “how does medita- tion affect the quality of your listening, your ethics, and any kind of interaction you would have as a legal professional?” one of the main aims is to help lawyers learn to cultivate insight in the midst of the challenges they face. “Legal training,” Chermak says, “teaches you to think like a lawyer, The Law of Mindfulness ILLUsTRaTIoNBYgWENDakaCzoR Charles Halpern (left) and Doug Chermak By Barry Boyce The Mindful Society