Finding Center Among Chaos–an Integrative Law BFOQ

My colleague Jennifer Tull, a collaborative lawyer from Austin, Texas, is blogging about how to keep your center and sense of purpose while working with clients going through major life transitions.  She writes beautifully and epitomizes the journey toward wholeness that is the hallmark of integrative law.    Here is her first post (we’ll be offering others from time to time):

Roller Coaster of Joy
Finding center among chaos

When I was a kid we would sometimes go to AstroWorld, a now-defunct theme park in Houston. Some of my friends were partial to the Alpine Sleigh Ride (which I did enjoy on some of those southeast Texas days where the temperature and the humidity are both somewhere around 10,000). Others went straight for the Bamboo Shoot, especially if there was someone in the crowd who didn’t know that the person who sits in front always gets soaked.

I was willing to go along with these wimps for a while, but before long I was impatient to climb aboard the Texas Rattler, and later, Greased Lightnin’ – once called the greatest roller coaster in the world. I loved everything about roller coasters – the dread that came with the click, click, click of the chain hill as you go up the first rise; that moment of liminal space when you’re not going up anymore but you haven’t yet started going down; the thrill of going 70 miles an hour down a 60 degree slope into a banking turn that becomes a full loop before you can catch your breath … and then it’s over, as you stumble in exhilaration to the back of the line to do it all over again.rollercoaster

I haven’t had the opportunity to ride a roller coaster in a decade or so, but it seems like lately I’m surrounded by people who are on emotional roller coasters: Clients who think they’re on the path to reconciliation only to learn of an ongoing affair; dear friends whose children are having life-threatening physical and mental health issues; colleagues being betrayed by trusted co-workers. It’s difficult to watch as their emotions careen from dark despair, through some double loops, to elation, then plummet to depths that seem to have no stopping point – all based on snippets of information that trickle into their world about things over which they have absolutely no control.

I was unprepared for life’s roller coaster with my own child, and because I never, ever want to be there again, I mined that event for everything I thought The Universe might be trying to teach me.

I learned that experiencing both highs and lows are equally important, and neither is reality. Reality is the platform from which you embark on your journey and to which you return when all the drama has ended – your place of spiritual poise or stasis. It’s where you live when things are not in crisis, and it informs how you perceive, interact with, and move through the world – in short, it defines your experience. I guess this place of repose is what some people would call your personality or prevailing world view. I like to think of it as my operating system – the thing that keeps everything running and from which all other programs are sourced.

I learned that if I start my roller coaster ride from a platform of chaos and fear, the ride will only make it worse. If I start the ride from a place of arrogance and perceived control, I just have that much farther to fall, and the process of falling might destroy me. But if I start my journey from a place of acceptance – the knowledge that the lows are temporary and so are the highs – I can have a completely different experience. Lows become rich times to absorb and appreciate all of the love and support I have from those around me; highs are opportunities for gratitude and giving back to others who are not as fortunate as I in that moment.

integrative brain wiring

Choosing your operating system

I learned that you can select the operating system you use. There are lots of fine operating systems to choose from, but if you don’t consciously choose, you will be stuck with the operating system that was installed at the factory, and that one is based on the limited amount of information available to you while you were becoming the person you are today. Much of that data is probably outdated, at best, and will leave you ill-equipped to take the next roller coaster ride that’s waiting for you right around the corner.

My roller coaster rides have caused me to upgrade my operating system, and I have settled on Joy. Joy combines all of the best features of Gratitude and Playfulness and is still agile enough to afford me a full range of emotions. Joy recognizes that there is no jumping for joyupper limit to how great things can be, while keeping me grounded and present. Joy allows me to be the one who yells, “BRING IT ON!” when faced with a challenge, and “WAHOO!” when an opportunity presents itself. Joy promises, when I get good enough at it, to allow me to be a solid, sturdy, centered me no matter what is going on in my world – and that’s so much better than AstroWorld it makes me laugh.

(Copyright © 2014 The Law Offices of Jennifer Tull, All rights reserved. Published here by permission.)

 

Copyright © |2014 *The Law Offices of Jennifer Tull, All rights reserved.

Bad Relationships Can Kill You…

A study released recently found that stressful relationships directly correlate with high blood pressure in women.doctor-suprised-high-blood-pressure

“What we observed was as the amount of negativity in relationships increased, risk of hypertension [in women] also increased,” reports  Rodlescia Sneed, co-author of the study.  She and  Sheldon Cohen, the Robert E. Doherty University Professor of Psychology at Carnegie-Mellon University,  looked at data from  1,502 healthy adults over 50 contained in a longitudinal study of more than 26,000 Americans known as the  Health and Retirement Study. That study tracks participants’ health information every two years, including  blood pressure and other physical markers as well as psycho-social health.

Sneed and Cohen found that negative social interactions,  including excessive demands, criticism, disappointment, and disagreeable exchanges, correlated with a 38 percent increase in developing high blood pressure in women. Younger women, aged 51 to 64, were  more affected by negative interactions than were older women.

man angry at woman in suitA particularly interesting wrinkle in their findings is the gender difference the data reveals.   Only women showed a link between bad relationships and high blood pressure.  “There is a lot of evidence that women pay more attention than men do and care more about their relationships than men do and it can be particularly devastating,” says Sneed.

Previous research has shown women in a bad marriage are at more risk of heart disease,stroke and diabetes. What’s new about this study is that it looked at all  negative social interactions, not only those between spouses.  These findings are significant for women’s long-term health:  tolerating bad relationships appears to  impact not only mental health but also longevity.  woman shouting with megaphone

 

Program for Certifying Integrative Lawyers Announced by Integrative Law Institute

PROGRAM FOR CERTIFICATION IN INTEGRATIVE LAW

Certification in Integrative Law

ILI’s program for certifying integrative lawyers has two purposes:

  • to encourage and recognize lawyers who engage in significant continuing education study aimed at developing the skills and understandings that support practicing law as a healing profession, and
  • to provide a means for members of the public to locate and identify lawyers who are committed to providing professional services  that address human conflicts constructively, not solely as legal problems but also across the  many other dimensions in which conflict impacts lives.

The core of the certification program is ILI’s own workshops and programs for practicing lawyers.  The hallmark of ILI programs is that they integrate creative conflict resolution tools, traditional understandings and practices, and emerging research discoveries from the biological and social sciences in a manner that lawyers, mediators, and judicial officers can use right away in their work.  ILI’s workshops and trainings include hands-on experiential components wherever possible.

Applicants for ILI certification will be asked to provide documentation of at least 40 hours of continuing education course work consisting of at least 25 hours of  workshops and trainings provided by ILI, with the balance consisting of approved courses provided either by ILI or by its partner organizations and colleagues.

Lawyers who have earned ILI’s certification in integrative law will be listed on ILI’s website and social media sites with links back to their own websites, and will be permitted to display ILI’s certification badge on websites, social media sites, and on professional materials.  Under development is a plan to provide Certified Integrative Lawyers with an online participatory virtual community.

The certification program, some components of which are still under development, is  being launched in phases beginning in early 2013,  so that participants in current ILI workshops  who have interest in certification can be aware of this option as they plan their ongoing continuing education.

 Earning Certification Credits

For 2013, continuing education credits as follows may be submitted for purposes of certification.  New  ILI courses and a limited number of select additional continuing education partners will be added to this list from time to time. The courses will be offered in major U.S. cities during 2013 and 2014.  By 2014, ILI also expects to offer some courses online.

Invitations to bring any ILI program to your city are welcome, as are program co-sponsorships.

ILI workshops and courses (as of January 2013)

Pauline Tesler Presenting at Integrative Law Workshop


  • Law and the Human Brain: Neuro-Literacy 101 for Lawyers, Mediators, and Judges. A complete description of this course is available at  http://is.gd/NeuroLiteracy101 (6 hours)
  • Money, Law, and Values. An investigation of how money, law, and values intersect and sometimes collide in legal negotiations, and an exploration of pathways through the challenges.  The workshop is described in more depth  at  http://is.gd/MoneyLawValuesWorkshop  (6 hours)
  • Weekend Workshop:  Becoming an Integrative Lawyer.  (Attendance at a weekend workshop is required for certification.)  This is a  highly personalized workshop with limited enrollment, offered in a variety of peaceful locations convenient to major cities. Included in the workshop is  facilitated personal self-reflection and strategic planning for achieving a law practice that supports working as an integrative lawyer.  The workshop curriculum  provides an overview and introduction to integrative law vectors, including: therapeutic/integrative jurisprudence and ethics, communications, narrative and re-storying techniques, body-mind awareness practices and tools, human needs theory, positive psychology,  negotiations theory,  systems theory and team practice,  behavioral and neuro-economics perspectives, collaborative practice, apology/forgiveness,restorative justice, integrative and values-based transactional practice, interest-based negotiations.  The fee for the workshop includes one hour of follow-up individual practice development consultation with Pauline Tesler, either via video conferencing or in person.  (15 to 18 hours)

Continuing Education Partners (as of January 2013)

  Lawyers may submit for certification purposes proof of in-person attendance at approved continuing education courses offered by these organizations and individuals.  Ordinarily, courses submitted for certification must carry  either state bar approved continuing legal education credit, or alternatively,  APA, state, or similar approved  CEU credit intended for other professions, such as psychologists, psychotherapists, or health care professionals.  Courses offered by ILI partners that do not carry such approved credit or that are attended online will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

ILI welcomes certification partnership inquiries from workshop leaders, trainers, and organizations that provide high quality continuing education in the vectors recognized by ILI for integrative law certification.  We consider for certification partnership programs that offer substantial original material developed by the presenter.

To be included in ILI’s mailing list, click here:   For more information, contact Pauline Tesler:  phtesler@integrativelawinstitute.org

Integrative Law Institute Partner Offers “Mindfulness and Compassion” workshop in March

Greater Good Science Center           Mindful

I’m pleased to pass on to the Integrative Law community this announcement from Advisory Board member Dacher Keltner’s Greater Good Science Center, one of ILI’s partner organizations.  Mindfulness  and other self-awareness practices are part of the core skills that integrative lawyers can bring to our work with clients experiencing conflict.  Learning the skills taught in this workshop can make you more present, energetic, attentive, and compassionate when working on high-stress cases, to your own personal benefit as well as to the benefit of your clients.

 Here is the workshop description: 

with Jon Kabat-Zinn, Paul Gilbert, Dacher Keltner, Kristin Neff, Shauna Shapiro, and others
When: March 8, 2013
Where: Craneway Conference Center, Richmond, CA (just north of Berkeley–map it) or tune in via Live Webcast
Hosted by UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center and Mindful: Taking Time for What Matters

A day-long conference to help you deepen connections to others and care for yourself, drawing on cutting-edge science

This day-long conference, featuring a keynote by Jon Kabat-Zinn, will illuminate the connections between mindfulness and compassion, focusing on how mindfulness can deepen relationships and build compassion, including self-compassion. Speakers will discuss how to apply scientific findings to the real world, drawing on cutting-edge research and inspiring success stories. Attendees will practice research-tested mindfulness and compassion techniques and learn from program leaders who have fostered mindfulness and compassion in schools, health care, and beyond.

Other presenters will include Kristin Neff, PhD, author of Self-Compassion; Paul Gilbert, PhD, founder of Compassion Focused Therapy; Shauna Shapiro, PhD, expert on integrating mindfulness into Western psychology, medicine, and education; and Dacher Keltner, PhD, faculty director of the Greater Good Science Center. Event will be webcast live!

Learn more at www.mindfulnesscompassion.com

Physical Health May be At Risk When Legal Conflict Resolution Settlements Create “Haves” and “Have Not’s”

I often use Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as a tool in my conflict resolution courses and workshops for lawyers.  It posits that before anyone can attend to higher-level needs such as love, belonging, esteem, and realizing dreams, the lower level needs (survival needs like food, shelter, clothing, followed by safety) have to be satisfied.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

When we negotiate settlement agreements on behalf of clients in relational disputes (e.g. divorce, will contests, small business dissolutions) whose lower-level needs are adequately met by any reasonable measure, it can sometimes be perplexing for lawyers to appreciate the degree to which some  clients focus not on the sufficiency of their own resources but on the gap between what they will end up with as compared to the other party or parties in the dispute.

A recent article in the New Scientist explains how health and relative wealth may be directly linked in unexpected ways.

Thomas McDade, a biological anthropologist at Northwestern University and director of Cells to Society at the Center on Social Disparities and Health at the Institute for Policy Research in Evanston, Illinois, says that additional research [shows]. . .” that even if you have a stable job and a middle-class income, then your health is not as good as that of someone who is in the 1 per cent. There is something more fundamental about social stratification that matters to health and the quality of social relationships.”

The issues of relative poverty are more nuanced than meeting basic needs for food and shelter. A hundred years ago it might have been whether you could afford to eat meat once a week – or have an indoor toilet. Today it might be whether you can afford to mark your child’s birthday with a party, Marmot  [Michael Marmot, an epidemiologist at University College London specialising in the health effects of inequality] says. “It matters because of what it means: can I participate in society?”

The great divide

Relative poverty goes hand in hand with inequality. “What we find is that the bigger the inequalities, income, educational, social, in a whole variety of ways, the bigger the health inequalities,” Marmot says.

The key is that having less than your peers seems to generate stress, at least at the level of large groups. And many studies over decades draw a straight line between stress and disease.

“How does having less relative to your peers undermine health? Study after study identifies the culprit as stress. Not day-to-day fretting, but persistent psychological and physiological reactions to external threats that cannot necessarily be addressed or avoided. Much of this research focuses on those living in impoverished communities, but these associations only diminish by degree as you ascend the economic ranks of a society. “Socioeconomic status, and social stratification in particular, is a very powerful determinant of health – for populations and for individuals,” says McDade.

Toxic stress

Unrelenting stress is toxic because it can turn the body’s defence system against itself. Neuroendocrinologist Bruce McEwen at Rockefeller University in New York says the stress response that evolved to protect us from harm can be hijacked and actually cause harm when the stress never abates. In a normal situation, the introduction of stress causes the body to deliver a boost of energy – by sending a surge of glucose to the muscles – and to increase heart rate, blood pressure and breathing to get oxygen to the muscles in a hurry. At the same time, blood vessels constrict and clotting factors increase – ready to slow bleeding in case you are wounded. These responses are part of a fight-or-flight survival kit, and once the stress has passed, these should subside.

But for people under unremitting stress, this response never quite switches off – leaving sugar levels unregulated, high blood pressure, increased risk of blood clots, depressed sex drive and an immune system buckling under the strain. Prolonged exposure to stress hormones can have other effects as well, including affecting the brain by altering the structure of neurons and their connections, which in turn can influence behaviour and change hormonal processes.”

 

How can we apply these ideas to conflict resolution work?

What applies at the macro level may well apply also at the  level of individuals in their families and communities and in the negotiating room.  These ideas are worth thinking about as a tool for educating parties to a conflict about interests that may live below awareness but nonetheless are in the room affecting the negotiating process.  Surfacing the issue certainly won’t worsen the problem, and may help parties to hear one another more empathically.

Living and Working in your Full Self: a Very Accessible Mindfulness Tool for Conflict Resolution Professionals

Did you ever get up from your desk after a long day of drafting documents, batting back emails, and talking on the phone with clients and other lawyers,  to discover that you are exhausted in both body and mind, noticing only then how much stress and tension your body is carrying? Sore back, stiff neck,  aching shoulders, weary spirit…..those seem to come with the turf of legal conflict resolution work.  The way I think of this is that I’ve spent another day living in my neocortex. Forgot again to remember that I am a fully embodied human primate with a triune brain that can bring far more than pure reason to the table. Forgot about embodied emotion as a tool and resource. Forgot I even have a body, below my neck. Forgot about how stress diminishes my creativity, my ability to empathize and to harvest valuable cues from interactions with others.

Maybe you do that, too? Here is an idea that I’m finding to be useful: stillnessbuddy.com offers free trials of several different applications that will pop up on your screen for a few seconds at intervals you set, reminding you to stop, breathe deeply, become aware of your body, notice your sense perceptions, let go of specific tension points.  Slightly longer stillness moments prompt with simple mindfulness/awareness exercises for letting go of thoughts and relaxing both body and mind.  If the pop-ups arrive at really inconvenient times,  one click makes them disappear immediately.  

I’m noticing that I like these mindfulness moments most when I least need them, and least when I most need them. That in itself is food for thought.