In general, mindfulness is the ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we are doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. A mindful approach to family law is the application of this mindful awareness to complex family legal matters. As a family law attorney that practices mindfulness meditation, my clients appreciate a professional who thinks and acts with awareness and presence of mind regarding their most important intimate relationships. To me having a mindful approach to family law means providing clients resources so they may investigate the benefits of mindfulness as they go through a divorce or family legal matter and offering:
- A compassionate understanding of their circumstances;
- A thoughtful approach to planning their case
- An attentive and aware advocate at each step of the process.
A Note from Allison
I became interested in Mindfulness Meditation as a graduate student in clinical psychology in the 1990’s. I wondered whether mindfulness was an effective therapeutic approach used to treat anxiety and depression and chose to research that topic for my Master’s thesis.
After receiving my Master’s degree in psychology, I went to law school knowing I wanted to practice divorce and family law. I started law school at age 30 with a five year old son who was starting Kindergarten. I was separated from my son’s father and my life was in transition. During law school I met and married my husband, Nick, and had my second child during the last semester of law school. As it happens in life, there were ups and downs; good times and hard times. Based upon my research in graduate school I sought out mindfulness-based practices to help me appreciate the positive aspects of my life and to accept or change the negative aspects.
I found that developing mindfulness leads to a deeper knowledge and understanding of complex life circumstances and relationships. For me this was a helpful and healthy approach to life’s most rewarding and challenging moments. Practicing mindfulness has helped me develop a patience and tolerance for difficult life circumstances of my own and it has given me a greater awareness of and empathy for the difficult situations faced by my clients. As a professional, mindfulness helps me to be aware of the dynamics of the underlying emotions in a divorce or family law matter. It also increases my awareness of legal or factual issues that I would not have otherwise contemplated. In short, practicing mindfulness meditation is a benefit to me personally and as a professional serving clients and helping them through what for them will likely be one of life’s most difficult transitions. Learn more about Allison >
What Are the Benefits of Mindful Family Law?
Acting with awareness and presence of mind is crucial in divorce and family law cases where there is much at stake. Adopting a mindful approach may also be beneficial in the following ways:
- Mindfulness helps lessen reactivity to negative feelings and emotions, which will help individuals detach from what many often perceive as a traumatic situation and observe it more neutrally so as to be better able to fully participate in the process. For example, it is often not in a client’s best interest to react impulsively to their spouse’s or co-parent’s criticism or verbal attacks. Developing a mindful awareness of what may trigger an impulsive reaction helps people recognize their trigger, detach from the situation, and take the time to consider an appropriate response.
- Mindfulness allows individuals to observe/notice/attend-to thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. Taking the time to meditate and observe one’s thoughts, feelings and perceptions develop nonjudgmental awareness. Having increased nonjudgmental awareness may help individuals make better parenting and financial decisions.
- Attending to one’s own negative thoughts and perceptions in a nonjudgmental manner also promotes self-compassion and it is important for individuals going through what may be one of their biggest life transitions to take care of themselves.
Anyone and everyone. We do our best to use a mindful approach in every case; so people who want mindful counsel, advice and advocacy should use a mindful approach. Anyone wanting resources for a beneficial technique that may help them through a difficult life transition should explore a mindful approach to their situation.
Setting Intentions – We will work with you on a proven process designed to help you set your intentions and create realistic goals for you during the divorce process. By doing so we will be able to help you understand that you are in control of the process based on how you react and respond to various situations.
Guided Meditation – For many people, meditation can be challenging. That’s why we will recommend to you specific podcasts and CDs that walk you through the entire meditation process. Even if you only devote five minutes every day, meditation will help you achieve a sense of peace and calm during divorce.
Therapeutic Massage – Taking care of your body is paramount during a divorce. Everyone agrees that divorces can be stressful. We encourage our clients to take care of themselves physically as well as mentally, and recommend a regular program of mind-clearing therapeutic massage.
Yoga Classes – Not only will yoga (at the level you require) help you clear your mind, it will increase your strength and flexibility during a time you need to possess both physical and emotional strength.
Journaling – One goal of the mindful approach to divorce is to deal with your unique situation in a positive and productive way. Journaling will not only help you through the process today, it will provide a tremendous archive in the future of the ways in which you proactively managed am extremely challenging process and to show you how far you have come.
Visual Mind Mapping – This exercise can be extremely powerful. We will provide instructions on how best to select photos, images, and words from various sources that best reflect your life – what you want your life to look like later this year, next year, and in the future. We create a virtual collage of every image you collect, and I help you understand your mind map. How and where you place your images has meaning that I can help you interpret.
Books – There are myriad books I have read that we recommend to our clients; books to help you step back and reorganize the priorities you have for the next phase of your life.
Videos and CDs – As you enter the next phase of your life in a positive and productive way, there are a number of CDs and videos we recommend to help and support you through your journey.
Yes, absolutely! A mindful approach can be used in any situation – stressful and contested or relaxing and cooperative. I think people going through a stressful, high-conflict divorce or family law matter may be able to benefit most by having a mindful attorney and by utilizing a mindfulness practice through the process.
Any contemplative practice such as meditation, prayer, yoga, etc. can help people develop mindfulness. Meditation is not the only method. Mindfulness is not connected to any religion and is not a religious practice.
Mindful Family Law Resources
5 Steps to Setting Powerful Intentions – By Deepak Chopra, M.D.– The Chopra Center
10 Intentions to Set for your Most Authentic Life – By Chandresh Bhardwaj, MindBodyGreen,com
The Heart’s Intention – Blog post by Phillip Moffitt, former CEO and Editor-in-Chief for Esquire Magazine
Setting Goals Isn’t Enough: Setting Daily Intentions will Change your Life – Post by Marla Tabaka, Inc. Magazine
Powerful Goal Setting Tips for Creating your Extraordinary Life– Post by Jack Canfield
Mindfulneess Meditation – 10 minute guided meditation video
Living Through Divorce Series – Presented by Meditations for Everyone with a focus on meditations focused on your children
Using Meditation and Mindfulness to Deal with the Aftermath of Divorce – Blog post from The Daily Mind
Meditation for Beginners – Informative blog post and how-to guide teaching the basics of how to meditate from Master Charles Cannon
New Life After Divorce Subliminal Affirmations & Guided Meditation – Published by Hoopla
Use Mindfulness to Create Better Habits (Guided Meditation Included) – Presented by Taylor Kreiss, The Huffington Post
Massage Benefits: 9 Healthy Reasons to Make an Appointment Today – Sarah Klein, Senior Editor, Health & Fitness, The Huffington Post
Massage: Get in Touch with its Many Benefits – The Mayo Clinic
The Hidden Health Benefits of Massage – blog post by Camile Noe Pagan, Oprah.com
How can Massage Help My Health and Wellbeing? – Post by the University of Minnesota
Massage Therapy – A comprehensive primer on Massage Therapy, MedicineNet.com
Relax! Calming your Body and Mind after Divorce – Divorce Magazine.com
Divorce and Yoga: A Perfect Marriage – By Jackie Pilossoph, Divorced Girl Smiling website
How Yoga Healed Me Through the 5 Stages of Divorce Grief – Blog post by Peggy Nolan, The Huffington Post
Benefits of Yoga in Fighting Post Divorce Depression– Blog post published by SAS for Women
Devine Divorce – Blog post by Liz Mandarano, originally published by The Huffington Post
6 Surprising Lessons Yoga Taught Me about Divorce – By Judith Tutin, YourTango.com
Twelve Ways to Ease your Stress in Divorce, Jon T. Chirban Ph.D, Th.D, Paychology Today
The Yoga of Divorce: a Mindful Route to Resolving Disputes – Book by Mike MacConnell, Amazon.com
Mindful Co-Parenting: A Child-Friendly Path through Divorce – Book by Jeremy Gaies
Contemplative Divorce, Kindle Edition – by Carmen Rumbaut, Free download on Amazon.com
The Buddah’s Guide to Loving Yourself: 40 Ways to Transform your Inner Critic and your Life – by Lori Deschene, on Amazon.com
Mindful Child Custody: Thinking Outside the Child Custody Box 10 Family Court Secrets Revealed – by Herman Gill Ph.D, on Amazon.com
A Conscious Parent’s Guide to Coparenting: A Mindful Approach to Creating a Collaborative, Positive Parenting Plan – by Jenna Flowers, PsyD LMFT, on Amazon.com
When Things Fall Apart – by Pema Chodron, on Amazon.com
Letting Go, Moving On: Comforting Meditations to Help Heal Grief, Divorce and Separation – Audio CD by Lucinda Drayton on Amazon.com
Guided Mindfulness Meditation: A Complete Guided Mindfulness Meditation Program – Audio CD by Jon Kabat-Zinn on Amazon.com
Mindfulness Meditation: Nine Guided Practices to Awaken Presence and Open Your Heart – Audio CD by Tara Brach, Ph.D on Amazon.com
The Mindful Divorce, Introduction and Goal Setting for your Emotions – Podcast from The Mindful Divorce.com
Turning your Hard Times Into Gold – the Over Divorce Podcast with Bryan Reeves – Listen online at Over Divorce. Com
Surviving Divorce – TED Talk by David Sbarra
What you Don’t Know about Marriage– TED Talk by Jenna McCarthy
The Impact of Divorce on Children – TED Talk by Tamara D. Afifi
The Surprising Science of Happiness – TED Talk by Dan Gilbert
Rethinking Infidelity….A Talk for Anyone Who has Ever Loved – TED talk by Esther Perel
10 Journaling Tips to Help You Heal, Grow, and Thrive – Blog post by Lauran Hills, Tiny Buddha.com
Why You Should Keep a Journal (and How to Start Yours) – Blog post by Alan Henry, life hacker.com
Why Journaling is Good For Your Health (And 8 Tips to Get Better) – Blog post by Michael Grothaus, Fast Company.com
It’s Easy to W.R.I.T.E. – Post on how to journal on Center for Journal Therapy website
How to Keep a Journal – Post on WikiHow
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