Holding Space: Attention to Inner Chatter Reveals Reliable Authority
My friend Dee called this morning as I was digging under a jacket for my dog's leash.
"You want to join me in a mental exercise?", she asked.
"Sure," I said, as I attached the leash to the collar around my Jack Russell Terrier's neck.
"If you tried on a pair of pants that felt soft and looked stunning, but were attached to a label that said "extra large", would you still buy them?"
I let out a hearty laugh.
"Well, I almost didn't buy them," admitted Dee, an attorney and business owner. "I stood in the fitting room for what felt like half an hour, turning to look at every angle of my lower body to look for what according to this designer is an extra large butt."
When Dee said this, I was standing in the hallway waiting for the elevator to arrive. I was wearing a pair of Lululemon yoga pants that appeared to slim my round Latina behind based upon what I saw reflected in my bathroom mirror.
"I've got to be honest here Dee," I told her. "I am looking at my reflection on the elevator doors and all of a sudden I am thinking: 'when did I get so short and wide?' Who is telling the truth?"
Our mouths broke into more laughter. I felt my shoulders lower into relief.
Dee's call made me aware of the mental chatter I was had been unconsciously engaged in every morning. I realized that last week I had gone on a diet strictly on the basis of the feedback from the elevator mirror. I was in my head, interpreting, yet disconnected from my body. I was ready to accept the indictment from the Mystery Fun House mirror on pure hearsay, without consulting my body and senses first. Without direct experience, where is the due process?
I don't quote Ronald Reagan often, except in his signature phrase: "trust, but verify." As lawyers, we are constantly verifying our sources, from Shepardizing to corroborating evidence. But what about when it comes to the source of information from which we form our perspectives? Are we even aware of our inner chatter? If I am not aware of what motivated a change in diet, how many other decisions, personal and professional, am I making on auto pilot?
After the call, I decided it was time to check in with my body. I started by checking the feel of my clothes against my skin - did they feel tight or loose? I then sat as comfortably as I could and slowed my breath down, as I visualized the breath going into my head, into my shoulders, between my shoulder blades, down to my finger tips, under my ribcage, into my low abdomen, down my legs into my toes. I noticed there was tension in my neck and shoulders, and just sat with that, sending the breath there, with no agenda other than just feel it, observe it. After some time, there was a shift in sensation - the tension lessened, became more fluid. I realized I had been wanting to avoid the tension, that I regarded it as a distraction, a nuisance, something I had no time for. But, as I gave it attention, it spoke to me. The body is smart. It traps energy for a reason. It has a story to tell. Do you know what your stories are?
From my perspective, holding space begins with me. Can I hold a safe, accepting space for ALL my beliefs and interpretations to come out of hiding, even the ones I feel embarrassed to admit? Maybe some of you can relate to the experience of having a client withhold relevant information. How can lawyers do their job without knowing all the facts? Similarly, how can a lawyer act in his or her own best interest if limiting, outdated, uncorroborated or unchallenged interpretations or beliefs are unconsciously guiding his or her actions? Only in truth can there be freedom to discern and choose.
I believe that lawyers hold within them a hunger for truth, and it all starts with the truth within. In an environment of judgment and opinions, from precedent to reputation, lawyers are challenged to remained centered in their truth. Mirrors can tell the truth, but which truth? Is my elevator truth that I need to "fix" something that is wrong or that I am quick to believe something in me needs fixing? By cultivating the capacity to discern among the many messages around me, I cultivate relating with my center as the most reliable source of my authority.
What do you think?