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Lions Roar : September 2016
advises wise judges to unhurriedly and impartially weigh both right and wrong judgments before making a decision accord- ing to an intelligence in line with the dharma, guarding the dharma, and guarded by the dharma. Drawing from these teachings, I now understand mind- fulness as intentional awareness. The practice of mindfulness involves weighing our alignment and realignment with our truest intentions. For me, these intentions may be the eightfold path, commitments to loved ones, the Judicial Code of Con- duct, or my Oath of Office. Much of my understanding of the first noble truth has come from sitting on the bench and witnessing the 10,000 joys and sorrows arise and fall within all walks of life. Our communities, homes, and institutions are plagued with addiction, unemploy- ment, violence, and abuse. Often, our misguided and clumsy attempts to secure our own physical or financial safety and guard against pain only cause more suffering. At the epicenter is the courthouse, where communities seek to “make things right.” Trial judges, by necessity, develop thick skin because one half of all parties before us believe our decisions are wrong. Sometimes the only way to know the law has been applied fairly is when all parties are equally unhappy. Upholding the values shared by both my code of conduct and my practice while presiding over a high-volume court docket requires skillful effort—and some reliable tools. Indeed, if Martin Luther King, Jr. is right, and “Justice is power correct- ing everything that stands against love,” then every judge needs to acquire a set of personalized power tools. A daily sitting practice, dedicated dharma study, and a net- work of spiritual friends are all part of my personal tool belt. Community volunteerism, in particular, allows me to remain mindful of a vision of justice that’s broader than what’s defined by laws. My engagement with a local restorative justice dialogue forum called Justice in Balance allows me to support the empow- erment and reconciliation of community members impacted by the forms of violence not typically prosecuted in court. My responsibilities on the bench are a constant resource for the tangible application of and support for mindfulness. Mental restraint and discipline are tools I rely upon much more often than external threats or commands. Instead of using a gavel, my training as a judge has taught me to use respectful words and disciplined listening to communicate legitimate author- Gretchen Rohr, in a 2013 ceremony, is installed as a magistrate judge in the D.C. Superior Court by Superior Court Chief Judge Lee F. Satterfield. To her left is her Buddhist teacher, Gina Sharpe, founder of New York Insight. LION’S ROAR | SEPTEMBER 2016 67