The ability to pay close attention enhances one's performance in many activities, including the practice of law. In fact, in doing much of what is required of a lawyer, attention is elemental. Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz and I wrote in our recent article (published in The Complete Lawyer) "Law Students: Create a Well-Rounded Life" . . .
Paying attention is not easy and most people don't do it very often. In order to pay attention, a person has to have thoughts instead of the thoughts having him or her. As most of us drift through each day, our thoughts are automatic and impulsive.
Paying attention is a learned skill, one that takes practice. It requires a necessary ability to step back mentally and observe what your mind is doing, to observe as an "impartial spectator" your thoughts and feelings and preferences and moods.
A new study highlights the benefits of meditation on attention and shows that meditation makes changes in your cognitive function and brain. Sharon Begley wrote about the research in Meditating Your Way to a Better Brain. She concludes by quoting the study's lead researcher Richard Davidson: "The conventional view is that attentional resources are limited. This shows that attention capabilities can be enhanced through learning."
"Certain mental characteristics that were previously regarded as relatively fixed can actually be changed by mental training," University of Wisconsin neuroscientist Richard Davidson said. "People know physical exercise can improve the body, but our research and that of others holds out the prospects that mental exercise can improve minds."
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"Meditation is a family of methods designed to facilitate regulation of emotion and attention," said Davidson.
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"One of the fundamental mysteries that is now becoming better understood as we go along but which is still a breakthrough area of research is neuroplasticity, the idea that we can literally change our brains through mental training," Davidson told LiveScience. "Certain kinds of mental characteristics such as attention or certain emotions such as happiness can best be regarded as skills that can be trained."
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In the next five years, Davidson expects a dramatically increased level of research into meditation "because it is beginning to be recognized as something that takes advantage of the plasticity of the brain, has relatively few if any side-effects and has potentially very beneficial effects, the impact of which can be documented using the most rigorous scientific methods."
Because of meditation's boost to cognitive function and attention, not to mention its stress reduction, a meditating lawyer is likely to be increasingly sharp and skillful. Wouldn't meditating then be a part of good client service? Seems so to me. How about you?