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Holistic Philosophy Mindfulness

A Holistic Approach to Divorce

As with most other forms of human conflict, divorce can often trace its root to a disconnect of one or both partners to their core sense of being. This disconnect was likely present at the time the couple met and, in most cases, has persisted either saliently or always lurking in the background throughout the marriage.

When we are unable to connect up with our true selves grounded in a timeless, non-dualistic sense of being, very often we manufacture a sense of self out of our thoughts and judgments about how things “are” and how we think they “should” be. This process may also be more commonly understood as “ego identification.”

When one or both partners in a marriage have come from a place of strong ego identification, they very often have looked towards the marriage or his or her partner as a primary source of “happiness,” validation, etc. in one’s life. This is not surprising given our deep societal emphasis placed on marriage and family. Problems begin to arise in a marriage, however, once the ego identified partner(s) begins to realize that the other has failed to eradicate unhappiness, provide validation, etc. in his or her life. At this point, if this process remains unconscious, all sorts of destructive patterns can begin to surface, eventually blazing a trail to the divorce lawyer.

The problem with our contemporary legal response to divorce is that it almost completely overlooks the root cause(s) of what initially led to the interpersonal breakdown. What is worse is that we typically plug spouses into an adversarial system and win/lose model of dispute resolution that almost invariably serves to directly feed into deeper, more harmful, ego identification.

The holistic approach to this situation involving spouses, and often children, is primarily aimed at unearthing these root causes and essentially helping the participants become conscious of their true sense of being. This is done in the context of a holistic practice by cultivating mindful attention to one’s present-moment reality. When a client is able to connect up to this core, his or her past ego identification can begin to be viewed or witnessed from a distance, and the identification begins to break down. The client begins to entertain the notion that he or she is not defined by his or her thoughts. This new realization is the beginning point for moving forward in relationships in a way that does not impose completely unrealistic expectations on others. This new ability to be mindful of the present moment simultaneously opens the door to more effective listening, empathy and compassion towards the other spouse.

It is at this point that the client begins to realize that he or she has a choice in how to proceed. Obviously, it is important that this process occur before filing a divorce petition in the courts which instantly places this situation into an adversarial framework.

Even if a decision is made to divorce at this point, the parties will be in a far better position to negotiate a marital settlement agreement that will be in the best interests of all involved in the short and longer term. Once this agreement is reached, the attorney can then proceed to wind the matter through necessary court procedures in a non-adversarial manner.

If you are considering a divorce, or would like to learn more about the holistic lawyering process, please call me at (415) 508-6263, or visit my website at http://www.holistic-lawyer.com.

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Holistic Philosophy Law Practice

Mindfulness, Thought, and Conflict Resolution

Much of traditional law practice, especially that involving litigation or conflict resolution, involves an attempt to understand past events in terms of “facts” recalled by involved parties, then analyzing these recollections in the context of legislation, regulations, or prior court opinions.  Because of this orientation, the first question an attorney is likely to ask of a new client is “What happened?”  The client will then embark on an exercise to recreate a complex chain of events, some of which may have occurred months or years in what we call the past.

Holistic law practice starts not from the question of “What happened?” but rather from the question of “What is happening now?”  The difference in this orientation is largely the difference between thought and mindfulness.  Mindfulness refers to a state of deeply connected awareness of the present moment.  This awareness is grounded not in thought, but beyond thought.  By cultivating an ability to access the present moment, we reconnect to our foundational sense of being.  This state gives rise to an experiential realization that we are all part of something far beyond our individual life situations.  It is upon tapping into this reality that we develop true understanding and compassion for others, even those whom we had previously “blamed” for our current legal difficulties.

By contrast, the intellectual, predominantly thinking-based approach to many legal situations involving conflict is misguided.  First, this approach depends largely on the futility of human memory to accurately recreate past events.  Additionally, thought is often inextricably tangled with ego in a vast majority of our contemporary society.  When ego is invoked, defenses arise and “conflict resolution” quickly devolves into “winning” and “blaming.”

At its core, the difference between mindfulness and thought is the injection of time.  Mindfulness refers to a connection to the present moment – i.e., “life” – which is infinite and timeless.  Thought largely involves the fictional “past” and “future” which often do little more than muddle the sense of inner peace associated with mindful attention to the present moment.

Of course, thought is an integral tool called on to address legal issues, but should ideally be invoked as a tool once the client has accessed his or her sense of being through mindful awareness of the present moment.  Actions springing from this point of awareness will prove far more beneficial to the client both in the short and longer-terms.  These positive outcomes, over time, can also help heal our society pervasively dominated by egoistic thought.

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Law Practice

The Primary Care Approach Applied to Legal Services

A century ago it was feasible for a physician to have sufficient mastery over medical treatments and remedies so that he or she could offer treatment to patients no matter what the diagnosis. As the range of treatment approaches, surgical techniques, and the sheer volume of medical information readily available has mushroomed, it has become virtually impossible to master even a small fraction of these approaches. Thus, the primary care physician has evolved as the point person guiding patients to appropriate specialists as warranted. The primary care physician offers more personalized diagnostic services as a means of ensuring that the patient is pointed in the proper direction. Moreover, the primary care physician has at his or her disposal a network of specialists to whom patients can be referred as situations dictate.

In similar ways, the practice of law has evolved and changed in so many ways over the past century to the point at which it is simply not possible for one attorney to amass significant expertise in more than one or two substantive areas. But, unlike medicine, if an attorney holds himself out to have expertise in an area in which he or she is actually lacking, the end result is unlikely to be serious physical harm to the client. So, especially in the case of solo practitioners, an attorney is often likely to provide services to clients in areas where bona fide experience is lacking or, probably more common, completely overlook more efficacious solutions because of his or her pigeon-holing the client into substantive areas in which he or she feels most comfortable.

The time has come for the legal system to embrace a “primary care” model of legal services. This model is the foundation of holistic lawyering. Instead of holding him or herself out as an attorney in specific practice area(s), the holistic lawyer places a primary emphasis on each client as an individual with unique life situations. The holistic lawyer approaches the attorney-client relationship with no preconceived notions as to the substantive practice area(s) that a client’s problems might neatly slot into. Instead, the holistic lawyer brings to the table a broad general knowledge of potential solutions drawing on a panoply of practice areas and professional experience, and a network of specialists in the community to whom the client may be referred as situations dictate.

The holistic lawyer has as his or her primary strength the ability to help individuals come to understand their legal problems in the context of their past learned conditioning and future intentions so that a optimal treatment approach can be crafted. The holistic lawyer can then reach out to specialists in the community in a variety of practice areas to ensure that the agreed-upon objectives are pursued in a most competent and cost-effective manner. Not only will these holistic approach lead to better legal solutions, but the client will come away with a life improved and not negatively colored by his or her involvement with attorneys and the legal system.

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Holistic Philosophy

Pitfalls of the Adversarial System

Yesterday I received a series of e-mails form opposing counsel in a divorce matter (even the term “opposing” counsel has no place when trying to work through issues raised by a couple separating after more than ten years of marriage, but this is the recognized terminology). The e-mails were peppered with CAPITAL LETTERS, and the attorney had copied her client on each e-mail.

In a legal system built largely on a win/loss model and within which attorneys most often bill at rates exceeding $250.00/hour, many attorneys become primarily concerned with demonstrating their “value” to their clients and/or themselves. This is most often done by projecting an “I am better than them” front that is built on the illusion of separateness. While the “opposing” counsel in this particular situation might have a solid understanding of statutes or court procedures, this adversarial posture will result in wasted time, money and, more importantly, a missed opportunity to help these individuals move forward in their lives in optimal ways with knowledge and wisdom gained from this experience. In the more broad context, this adversarial system and posturing continues to feed pervasive egoistic behavior on which so much of our society is based.

The holistic approach rejects this notion of separateness and strives to facilitate connection with a client’s non-dualistic sense of being. Realization of this goal will result in a much greater likelihood of resolving legal issues in a way that is intrinsically satisfying and “right” to the parties involved.

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Holistic Philosophy

The Inner Law

It is often said that we are “a nation of laws.” What may be more accurate is that we are “a nation of government.” Our government is largely charged with the responsibility of reigning in undesirable behavior, and encouraging more benevolent behavior through the enactment of statutes that either punish people for harmful behaviors or provide incentives for positive actions.

When a client comes to an attorney for legal help, they often do so stating that they “do not know what to do.” It is true that to understand even a small fraction of our statutes and procedures and “common law” rules can prove hugely challenging even for a highly experienced attorney.

I would posit, however, that most individuals actually do know what to do. Through mindful attention in a way that connects up to one’s authentic sense of “being,” one can find the clarity giving rise to experiential knowledge of precisely what is the right action to take in a given situation. The attorney’s job is to facilitate this process and, once the client has identified the right course of action to fit his or her unique situation, invoke our contemporary legal system to bring about the right result.

This is the goal of holistic lawyering. It starts from the premise that we all know “the law.” Part of the attorney’s job is to know where to look.

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Holistic Philosophy

Basic Philosophy

Over the past few decades, segments of our society have begun to open to a more holistic approach in addressing increasingly deep-rooted problems.  Western medicine has come to integrate the more proactive notion of “wellness” as opposed to the traditional paradigm which almost exclusively stressed the reactive treatment of “illness.”  This new paradigm has emphasized a turning inward through higher consciousness and mindfulness, ultimately leading to improved health and pain management.  This “mindfulness” is primarily rooted in a more grounded sense of “being” realized through heightened conscious awareness of moment-to-moment experience.

By contrast, our legal system – especially as it seeks to address disputes among individuals – remains entrenched in paradigm almost wholly rooted in the past (precedent) and oriented towards blaming external forces (judgment/liability) when things go wrong.  This orientation to problem solving, save for fleeting moments of gratification in response to a favorable court “judgment,” almost invariably leaves the participants unfulfilled, and does little to help our society evolve in ways that may lead us back to sustainability.

I work in an effort to infuse our legal system with a new paradigm which, I believe, is necessary to help us evolve as individuals and as a society.  In the context of legal issues or disputes in which you might be involved, or professional challenges you may be facing as a practicing attorney, my work will place an emphasis on coming to better understand your present reality.  We will examine the extent to which learned conditioning – largely in the form of how things “should” be – has clouded perception and, in many cases, contributed to undesirable life situations.

The result of our work together will be heightened self-awareness and inner peace.  The manifestation of this inner work will lead to improvement in your personal and professional lives, and often will also lead to the discovery of more creative solutions to your legal issues proving far more constructive than procedures and remedies currently afforded by our contemporary legal system.