Bar Member Timothy Lambert on Mindfulness: Lawyers Need to Pause

By Jeffery Leon

March 9, 2017

D.C. Mindful Lawyers is a group for legal professionals seeking to practice mindfulness, the act of being aware of one's surroundings and thoughts through meditation. On March 25 D.C. Mindful Lawyers will hold its first Day-Long Retreat at Georgetown University Law Center. The event, led by meditation teacher Pat Coffey, is open to both new and experienced meditators, including law students. D.C. Bar member Tim Lambert, senior counsel for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's Office of Fair Lending and Equal Opportunity and a coordinator for D.C. Mindful Lawyers, has been practicing mindfulness for the last 10 years. Here he shares how meditation can help bring calm into one's daily life.

Timothy Lambert

What prompted you to practice mindfulness?

I came to mindfulness or "insight meditation" because there were patterns in my thinking and behavior that I wanted to change, and a general sense that, for all my effort and many successes, life remained, at some basic level, somewhat unsatisfactory and unfinished. I found that mindfulness offered both a short-term solution and a longer-term path. In the short term, by awakening to the ease and openness of the present moment through meditation, my problems sometimes scattered, and I was left shaking my head wondering what all the trouble was about. In the simple words of Ram Dass, all I needed to do was "be here now."

The bigger question was what happened when I opened my eyes after meditating to return to life. It has been a process of bringing mindfulness to everything that happens, to live in a place that's less concerned with the story I create about myself and more about allowing the well-being that already exists inside and outside to naturally arise. This part is a life-long journey, but can take you as far as you want to go and leads, paradoxically, back to who you truly are.

Why is mindfulness important, and how can attorneys benefit from it?

Mindfulness is a return to our natural state of being, which is spacious and still, where we can open ourselves to the aliveness and richness of this present moment, and respond with wisdom and compassion to whatever is happening.

What little things can attorneys do to increase their mental and/or physical wellness in a stressful moment?

When stress comes, it's all about what happens next. You can easily tense up into a "fight or flight" response, or . . . you can pause. The first shift happens when you recognize what's happening. Stopping and recognizing what's going on in your body helps. The stress might be rolled up in the pit of your stomach, or focused in your chest or shoulders. Instead of fighting it or looking for a distraction, take a second to recognize and investigate what's going on. You can even silently say to yourself, "Ah, this is stress." Or, "It feels like some tightness in my chest." Next, ask yourself: "Can I be with whatever is happening right now, even just for a moment?" If you can stay right there with it, often there is a shift. It doesn't go away, but your relationship to it starts to change and things can open. You might try talking to the stress to ask it what it needs from you right now. Often, for me, the answer is compassion. That can leave you in a far different place from where you started.

Be aware of the stress, where it is focused in your body, take one conscious breath—aware that you are breathing in and aware that you are breathing out—and ask yourself, "Can I be with what's right here?"

How long should one meditate?

The amount of time is not important. The key is to try it on a regular basis. Try to start with five minutes in the morning. There are some great apps that can guide you, as well. A free one I like is Insight Timer.  

D.C. Mindful Lawyers meets every second Wednesday of the month at the Georgetown University Law Center Chapel from 7 to 8:30 p.m. To register for its Day-Long Retreat or for more information about D.C. Mindful Lawyers, visit the group's website.