Joyful Practice

by Joel Orenstein

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Mindfulness is openness. Opening to experience, whatever it may be, is the key to joyful lawyering. As we open our eyes and ears and hearts, with a sense of curiosity and welcome to the world, in all its manifestations, every moment, even the most outwardly stressful, becomes filled with wonder and joy.

It sounds so simple, yet in practice, the reality of our experience is so often the opposite of this. We approach our days as a pitted battle against our world and our experience. Although we understand in theory how mindfulness – as moment-to-moment, non-judgmental awareness – is so beneficial, we continue to experience work and life as a constant frustration.

The problem is that we are so habituated to the opposite of openness. The instinct to self-protect – to close ourselves off to experience – is something we have been practicing from the very first moment we experienced suffering or loss. And because we have been doing it for so long, the grooves of habit run very deep. When you consider this, is it really any surprise that we find openness such a challenge to put into practice?

The first step to openness is to have some compassion for ourselves and our predicament. For some, this is extremely difficult.

Whether it is because we think we are undeserving, or think that compassion is a sign of weakness, we struggle to open our hearts. However counterintuitive, we need to reassure ourselves that we are in fact deserving, and compassion is the perfect medicine.

Practicing compassion can take a lot of courage and often requires baby steps to begin with, but the result is incredible strength. This is because compassion is the beginning of the journey to acceptance that will, inevitably, lead to an open heart.

But don’t take my word for it. Have a go. Approach every moment as an opportunity to practice opening your heart. Like this moment right now.