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Lions Roar : January 2010
SHAMBHALA SUN jANUAry 2010 80 techniques that enable people to move through divorce “without cauterizing their wounds and putting difficult emo- tions into deep freeze. It helps them give forgiveness a chance.” although some 40 percent of marriages in the united States end in divorce, it is still treated as an aberration. Hence, people are ill prepared for it and do it poorly, often damaging lives for a very long time. after ten years, about a third of the people “are still in full combat,” Lowrance says, “and the effect on children is devastating.” the court system is not designed for healing, Lowrance says, yet healing is one of the main things divorce needs to be about. one of the central methods she developed is having the parties write a list of their fears and their aspirations. the very act of writing can be an act of mindfulness, Lowrance discovered, and it can defuse emotionality. once they’ve made the list, the parties begin to work with the fears one by one, reaching agreements to mitigate them for each party. “they are practicing saying yes, to opening, to seeing the other’s viewpoint. When they’ve resolved about 90 percent of the fears, and the most difficult ones are left, I ask them whether they’re willing to throw out the 90 percent they’ve come together on in or- der to emerge the complete winner on the remaining issues. You’ve created a recipe for saving your family, your children, for creating a template to lead a better life. You want to throw that out?” ultimately, Lowrance is working toward apology and forgive- ness. people want to avoid disharmony and struggle, Lowrance says, but when it emerges in life, as it inevitably will, one needs to go deeper. “divorce is just another of life’s crises. It can be a meta- phor, in fact. When life brings us difficulty, we tend to want to come up with our own neat package of simplistic truth—‘She ruined my life,’ etc.—but the world is complex, chaotic, not black and white. In order to end up with a neat package you have to buy into a sto- ryline that suits the way you want it to be. Your storyline may end up strangling you. If you appreciate how karma works, you begin to look at the bigger picture, and the pain you experience can help you reorient how you approach the rest of your life.” Lowrance discovered Buddhist practice on a trip to Bhutan at about the time she started on the bench. She started attending retreats led by thich nhat Hanh, and she’s inspired by the dalai Lama, who says he never enters a meeting with an adversary be- fore seeing himself in their shoes. “every day, before I go onto the bench, I meditate on being in the situation of those in my court- room.” this practice is key to helping people move from recrimi- nation and suppressing emotions to forgiveness and healing. Lowrance credits Buddhist practice with giving her the per- spective needed to do her work effectively. “Buddhism remod- eled all of my perceptions, all of my emotions. In my profes- sional life, I swim in a swamp of negativity. Buddhism taught me never to come from a visceral emotional place without purifying thought, putting it through a lens that sees everyone’s humanity. I’ve become a judge who’s not judgmental.” ♦ Judge Michele Lowrance