Episode Synopsis: In her best-selling book, The Anxious Lawyer, co-author Jeena Cho offers guidance for lawyers looking to improve their mental health and practice of law through the use of mindfulness and meditation. Cho discusses why the dynamics and training most attorneys receive fail them in the long run and provides successful coaching techniques she uses to assist anxiety-ridden lawyers to create a sustainable career in law with less stress and more joy.
Jeena: Humans, in general, have a negativity bias, and we’re hardwired to imagine the worst-case scenario, but, I think, lawyers are uniquely trained in that way. You know, we’re not taught any tools for managing stress and anxiety, unlike therapists who are also in the human suffering business, there’s not a discussion about our own well-being. We tend to sort of pride working around the clock as the gold standard. I don’t know. There’s just this like Medal of Honor that we wear in saying like, “I just worked that…like I just work all the time.” And part of that is, you know, how we earn our living in that we bill in six-minute increments, so there’s this constant pressure to always bill more, which also means that we’re not valuing things like efficiency and, you know, figuring out ways of how to work smarter and not harder. Maybe those I think are just some other reasons for why lawyers are so anxious.
Scott: That was Jeena Cho speaking on the dynamics of practice and the dynamics of training for lawyers that make us uniquely susceptible to anxiety and how we don’t always come into the practice of law equipped to deal with it. I sat down recently with Jeena Cho to speak about her practice, her development of mindfulness, and the coaching that she provides to lawyers dealing with anxiety. Jeena Cho speaks and writes about creating a sustainable law practice. She’s a contributor to “Forbes” and “Above the Law” where she covers resilience, work-life integration, and wellness in the workplace. She regularly speaks on women’s issues, diversity, wellness, stress management, mindfulness, and meditation. And she can be reached at email@example.com. My name is Scott Key, and you’re listening to “The Advocate’s Key” podcast, a show that explores the art and science of litigation with some of the nation’s top thinkers. For more information and content like this, go to scottkeylaw.com. Well, I’m joined by Jeena Cho, bankruptcy lawyer, and I wanted to say, mindfulness coach. Jeena, thanks so much, and welcome to the podcast.
Jeena: Thanks so much for having me, Scott.
Scott: It’s a real honor to have you on. For people that don’t know you, and I feel like many lawyers know you, introduce yourself to my audience. Who is Jeena Cho?
Jeena: Sure. So, I teach mindfulness and meditation to lawyers and law firms or bar associations around the country, and until fairly recently, I was practicing law, and we can maybe get into a little bit about my career transition. But right now I split my time between teaching mindfulness and meditation and also being a mom to a very active 20-month-old toddler.
Scott: That’ll test your anxiety levels for sure. So tell me a little bit about your background. You know, growing up, did you have a background in meditation? Was there some religious tradition that you came from where that was emphasized, or is that something that you came to later in life?
Jeena: No, it’s definitely something I came to later in life. Interestingly when I was in law school, I was introduced to a little bit of meditation. There was a…it’s called a Himalayan Institute, and there was a branch in Buffalo, New York, which is where I went to school. And I somehow randomly ended up in one of the meditation classes there, but, you know, I took the class, and I don’t remember, like, really getting much out of it. You know, I just did the course, but, I think, when I came back to the practice many, many years later, probably a decade later, you know, it’s one of those things, right, like you kind of became familiar with something earlier in life, and, I think, that leaves an imprint on you.
Scott: Right. So, tell me about…what was your undergraduate major?
Jeena: I was a psychology major.
Scott: Did you think that you would go on at some point in time and be a counselor or a psychologist before you decided to go to law school?
Jeena: You know, I think, I always wanted to be a lawyer. I am an immigrant, and we came over from South Korea when I was like 10 years old. And, you know, just growing up, I had this sense that people were treated very differently, you know, depending on, you know, your economic status, your socioeconomic status, and your race, and, you know, different factors, and surely with my own parents, primarily because they didn’t understand the language, and there was a huge language barrier, and also just the lack of understanding of how our justice system worked. You know, I saw them get taken advantage of in different ways. So I had this feeling like, you know, “If I can become a lawyer, I can correct a lot of the injustices of the world.” And also I watched a lot of “Law & Order” growing up. That was also how I learned to speak English, and so, you know, I remember thinking like, “Oh, that’s what lawyers do, you know. In one hour, they put bad guys behind bars, and, you know, they can really make a difference.” So that was part of the reason why I became a lawyer.
Scott: So you actually learned English watching “Law & Order” episodes?
Jeena: I did. Yeah.
Scott: So you were definitely bound for law school with that experience?
Jeena: I think so for sure. Yeah.
Scott: And so it sounds like from what motivated you to go to law school, one would think that you would have gone into criminal defense or to immigration.
Jeena: I did. Yeah. So I actually started my career as an assistant state attorney. So I, you know, kind of exactly followed that road map of what I saw on television, and, you know, I think, very, very quickly, I realized that my understanding of the justice system, even though I had gone through law school, you know, I felt like, oh, there was such a huge gap between my understanding of the justice system and what it actually did versus what I thought it would do. And so, you know, I very quickly realized that that was not the right job for me.
Scott: Where was the divide between what you expected and what the reality was?
Jeena: You know, I think, I had sort of a fairly black and white understanding of the world, and my first assignment I was assigned to domestic violence court. And, you know, I think, our justice system is just very, very poorly set up to handle, you know, lots of different crimes, but especially crimes involving intimate partners. You know, really the only sort of tool that I had was probation, which was not actually that great at, you know, helping them learn different tools and skills and also jail, you know, and certainly, they weren’t going to get better in jail. You know, and I also saw, in misdemeanor court, I saw the same people sort of come through this revolving door, you know, they would get caught multiple times for petty theft or, you know, for possession of marijuana or these like sort of low-level offenses. I just felt like I was part of the cog, and I wasn’t really improving anyone’s lives.
Scott: You were just kind of moving the file through the system, and nobody was getting any better. You know, I think, it can be frustrating for both defense counsel and for prosecutors and domestic violence situations because there are some very complicated relationship dynamics in those kinds of cases that the criminal justice system isn’t quite equipped to adequately deal with it.
Jeena: Yeah. Exactly. And, you know, I think, just also coming into contact so intimately with human suffering. I was definitely not ready for that. That’s one of the huge shortfalls of law school is you get this very concise analysis of, you know, like when you read a tort class, for example, you know, you learn these very concise understanding of, you know, “Here are the facts, and, you know, this is the application of the law. Here’s the law or the application of the law and here’s the conclusion.” But, you know, it’s very different when you’re sitting with someone, right, that went through some sort of a tragedy or some sort of a life crisis than, like, reading it in the analysis version in a brief.
Scott: Well, the term fact pattern is odd. I mean, just that we start to see human suffering, or we see it through the lens of there’s…you know, the term is a fact pattern. And when you are representing an actual client who’s suffering, or you’re prosecuting someone, and the victim has gone through certain things, it’s not a fact pattern. They don’t wanna be thought of as characters in a fact pattern.
Jeena: Right. Yeah. Exactly.
Scott: So you left prosecution, and I know you ultimately ended up in bankruptcy law. Did you go directly into bankruptcy from that, or was there something in between?
Jeena: Yeah. I took a little bit of a time-off. You know, I was sort of lost and kind of going through a career transition. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do, but I started doing some volunteer work. I was living in San Francisco at the time, and there’s a great organization called the AIDS Legal Referral Panel where you can sign up to get pro bono cases. And it was also great because you went and did like an all-day training, and they assigned you a more experienced attorney. And I just took a volunteer bankruptcy case, and he was an immigrant from Mexico. And, you know, he also, like, very much reminded me of my own parents and that he didn’t have an understanding of how our legal system worked. And he also had bipolar disorder. So, the impact of that was he would go through these spending cycles, and he racked up a lot of credit card debt, and he was just really afraid that he was going to be put in jail. But, you know, I was able to file his bankruptcy case and guide him through it, and he was just so grateful. And we hugged, and we cried, and I was like, “This is amazing. This is so different than putting people in jail for crimes.” So, I switched and ultimately started a bankruptcy law practice.
Scott: And in the midst of the bankruptcy practice, I know this is before you came to be a consultant and mindfulness coach and you came to be an author, did you ever run up against a point in time where there was anxiety that you were suffering that you felt like you needed the tools to handle? How is it that you came into this area of…not really practice of law but this area of practice?
Jeena: Yeah. You know, and just kind of looking back to what I was saying is when you do bankruptcy, I think, this is very applicable in so many areas of law is I was just knee-deep in human suffering all the time, really, needless to say, no one ever comes to see a bankruptcy attorney with happy news. And I didn’t have the tools to deal with the stress and the anxiety, you know, and I felt like so much was riding on these cases, and I wanted to deliver the right outcome for my clients. You know, I think, I was suffering from some level of like compassion fatigue or, you know, secondary trauma, which, you know, I didn’t know about any of those things, but I started to suffer from a lot of anxiety.
And then those like anxiety started manifesting itself in physical ways. So I would get, like, tension headaches. You know, I just have this knot in my stomach, all the time I just felt tired, and then I started losing hair. And I went to a doctor, and, you know, he would just tell me like, “There’s nothing physically wrong with you. This is just all in your head.” And then strangely, I started to engage in like avoidant type behaviors where I wouldn’t wanna talk to my clients on the phone or meet them in person, because a lot of times, they were very emotional. So I would, you know, try to like write them emails and like be like, “Okay. You know, tell me your story in a way that doesn’t involve emotions, so I can put it into a fact pattern.” But, you know, eventually, I couldn’t sort of ignore my own mental health anymore, and I was just really suffering, and it’s sort of a long story, but I eventually ended up learning mindfulness and meditation as a tool to cope with just the overwhelming anxiety I was experiencing.
Scott: What do you think the…? I mean, we can talk about some of the problems. I mean, there are all sorts of mental health and substance abuse issues that lawyers deal with, I think, uniquely as a profession. I mean, there’s nothing unique about that. I mean, I think, society-wide these things are definitely problems, but it seems to be particularly magnified in the practice of law. What is it do you think that it is about the practice of law that causes us to suffer as much as we do?
Jeena: Yeah. You know, I think, there are a lot of different factors. One is just the adversarial system, right? I was talking to a friend of mine who’s a physician, and he was like, “Yeah, like, my job is stressful too, but everyone in the room is trying to help me save a patient.” Whereas, you know, in our situation, right, you know, we’re trying to do what we can for our clients, but there’s this adversary, and, you know, there’s this conflict. You know, also, I think, we’re not taught very well how to manage conflict. There’s a lot of incivility in our profession. You know and, I think, a lot of times, we make these litigation cases so much more litigious than it has to be. There are all of these, you know, like dirty tricks that, you know, people try to play on each other and just not extending common courtesies. You know, I remember like I was getting married, and my opposing counsel dug in his heel, and he’s like, “I’m not going to stipulate to an extension.” And I was like, “Okay. Well, I guess we’ll go and talk to the judge and see what he thinks about this.”
But, you know, just like those type of things. Also, I think, because of our own training, lawyers are taught to imagine the worst-case scenario. We in some ways are taught that, right? So we kind of engage…we see the lens through this lens of catastrophizing everything. And, I think, we do this both professionally and personally. I think it’s really hard to…you, know, let’s just taking a step back, humans, in general, have a negativity bias, and we’re hardwired to imagine the worst-case scenario, but, I think, lawyers are uniquely trained in that way.
You know, we’re not taught any tools for managing stress and anxiety, unlike therapists who are also in the human suffering business, there’s not a discussion about our own well-being. We tend to sort of pride working around the clock as the gold standard. You know, if you ever tell your boss, “Hey, I need to take a mental, you know, health day,” I’d like to think that law firms are becoming more progressive. You know, I think, that’s still sort of frowned upon. I don’t know. There’s just this like medal of honor that we wear in saying like, “I just worked that…like I just work all the time.” And part of that is, you know, how we earn our living in that we bill in six-minute increments. So there’s this constant pressure to always bill more which also means that we’re not valuing things like efficiency and, you know, figuring out ways of how to work smarter and not harder. Maybe those I think just some other reasons for why lawyers are so anxious.
Scott: Well, I think, it’s two things that are uniquely stressors for me is sometimes it’s the clients more than it is my opposing counsel to the judge. Sometimes I feel like that’s the case. Sometimes you want to extend that accommodation to your opponent, and your client would love nothing more than for you to not do that kind of thing. I think the other thing that can be difficult that I find is, and maybe this is just knowledge work in general, not just the law, but in a given day, if you don’t have an actual court date, or you don’t have meetings scheduled, but you have a bunch of cases to work on, sometimes it’s hard to even wrap your arms around what the job even is like what you should…I’ll find myself in the middle of working on something and thinking, “Is this the right thing I should be…? Should I be working on something else other than this thing I’m working on?” It can be a little nebulous at times.
Jeena: Yeah. I totally agree with everything that you just said. Yeah. You know, it’s hard. It’s a great profession, but it’s definitely hard.
Scott: So now we’ve sort of identified some of the issues with lawyer suffering. It’s the competitive nature of the job. It’s a culture that encourages working around the clock. It’s the fact that sometimes opposing counsel will not be pleasant, or sometimes they’ll write letters to you and copy their client, and the letter is unusually harsh, I think, sometimes to entertain the client. You have lots of time pressures and plus there’s…I think you identified this at the very beginning. There’s so much at stake in our cases. I mean, people’s lives sometimes are riding on what we do. What did you find helped you to sort of manage or to get a handle on the anxiety that you were experiencing in law?
Jeena: Yeah. Multiple factors. You know, we can kind of maybe go through them one at a time. And, I think, just the very, very first step that I found to be helpful was you just talk to someone else. I met with a therapist, and I was just like, “I feel anxious all the time. I feel like things are…oh, I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’m just unhappy. My mind is constantly spiraling out of control, and I have no reason for it.” You know, I felt like I had everything like I was exactly where I wanted to be in life, and yet like I was just so unhappy. And that just sort of created this doorway in which…I mean, it sounds kind of, I don’t know, like so basic to say, but until you can sort of acknowledge what the issue is, right, you can’t really figure out how to solve it.
I mean, it just felt really soothing and comforting to like confide everything that I was experiencing to someone else and recognizing that, “Oh…” Because, I think, my fear was that if I said these things out loud or if I acknowledge them truly to myself, it would mean I was a failure, that it meant I was a bad lawyer. You know, what does this mean in terms of…? You know, I had to rebuild this whole life around my career. What does that actually mean? And then I also had fears about, you know, what would my clients think if they figured out that I was suffering from an anxiety disorder. You know, what would my opposing counsel think? Would they try to use this against me? What would the judge think, on and on and on?
And, I think, maybe the other thing, you know, we can kind of loop back to the question you asked before is that lawyers are perfectionists, right? And I felt like if this would be a proof that I was imperfect. So, you know, I think, just talking to someone was really helpful, and then learning that there are so many tools out there that…you know, I wasn’t broken as a human being because I was struggling with anxiety. It just meant that there were tools that I needed in my toolbox to be able to manage the anxiety, that it’s a human condition, right? Everyone experiences anxiety and stress, but we all cope with it in different ways.
You know, and just like spending a lot of time like adding a lot of different tools in the toolbox, and, you know, I’m still doing this now, you know. Part of the tool that I learned was, you know, mindfulness and meditation and also learning to be kinder to myself, which was just completely opposite of how I was trying to sort of operate in the world, you know, learning about compassion and, yeah, and, you know, maybe going through life with a slightly softer stance and really thinking about my values and how I wanna operate in the world.
Scott: So you’ve said three things there that I wanna circle back to and ask you a couple of more questions about. You talked about mindfulness, and then you talked about meditation, and then you talked about compassion toward yourself. I’d like to maybe spend a few minutes talking about what those things are. First of all, I think, mindfulness has become such a loaded term that sometimes, I think, maybe even the word itself can almost be alienating to people. What is a definition of mindfulness? Assume I’d never heard the word before. What does mindfulness mean?
Jeena: Yeah. I think in some ways, right, it’s kind of easy to define, but, I think, hard to like live. I don’t know, maybe like trying to like concisely describe, like, something like love, right? But also really thinking about it as a practice, a way that you live in the world, right? So it’s like when you love someone, it’s an active thing, and, I think, mindfulness is also like that. So to me, mindfulness is just paying attention to the moment-to-moment experience of whatever is happening, acknowledging it, but also meeting those moment-to-moment experience with compassion, compassion towards yourself, compassion towards others. So that’s, you know, how I like to think about the practice of mindfulness.
Scott: And so mindfulness is not just the thing that you practice while doing a particular activity like meditation, which we’ll talk about meditation in a second, but mindfulness it sounds like to me is what you’re saying is just kind of being where you are and noticing what’s going on around you and maybe also monitoring the internal narrative, the story that you’re telling yourself about what’s happening right now.
Jeena: Yeah. Exactly. Yeah. So, sometimes it’s described as like seeing things clearly. So, you know, we all sort of go through life with these lenses. You know, I can have the exact same experience one day, but I might be a little bit tired and cranky and maybe sleep deprived. So I’m going to experience that differently versus, you know, if I got a good night’s sleep, I’m really feeling good, and I’m really happy. So like really seeing things as they are and really like sort of noticing the details of things, which is really hard to do when, I think, so many of us are sort of lost in this mental fog all the time.
Scott: You know, at one point in time, you know, and I’m still very much new with this, I’ve been trying to learn this, I think, I told myself that, and this is the lawyer perfectionist, is, I think, sometimes we can take that into the practice of trying to be mindful, and I would find myself sort of being down on myself for allowing myself to get distracted. So, if the narrative was taking me somewhere other than where I was at the time like if I was talking to a client, and I was thinking about, “Well, gosh, tonight I need to, I don’t know, change the filters out of my AC.” When I would catch myself doing that, then I would be negative toward myself for having allowed myself to lose that moment.
Jeena: Yes. Yes. Right. This is actually a perfect segue to talking about meditation because I find that so many lawyers and myself included when they first start meditating, that’s like the first experience they notice, right, because you are sort of given this like assignment, and the assignment is to set, “Close your eyes and pay attention to the movement of the breath, breathing in and out,” and very, very quickly, your mind does what the mind does, which is to start thinking about the air filter. “And do I have milk? And what am I going to eat for dinner? And, gosh, you know, I forgot to take my vitamins this morning, and I need to order this thing from Costco.”
Scott: My freshman year in college, this guy cut me off from the salad bar line [crosstalk 00:23:58] that guy was a jerk. And I’m talking, and having done this for a little bit, it’s still within seconds this happens to me. I haven’t found that it’s gone away, and maybe it never does. But, I think, the trick I finally learned was, I think, maybe the noticing that you’ve done that and seeing it and then coming back is kind of where it all is anyway.
Jeena: Yes. And letting go of that self-judgment that naturally arises that, “Oh, I’m not doing this right. I’m failing at this. I’m terrible at this. I was supposed to be watching my breaths, and I’m thinking about, you know, that judge who, you know, ruled against my client, and the judge just, you know, didn’t get it right, and on and on and on.” Yeah. That’s the practice of meditation is it’s the formal and practice of mindfulness, right? It’s actually, you know, carving out time to say, “I’m going to take this little bit of time and watch my mind and train my brain to be more mindful.”
Scott: If I’m getting this right, mindfulness is something that’s potentially 24/7. It’s potentially, you know, you should strive to be mindful at all times, but meditation is the formal practice of training yourself to be more mindful through a particular practice or set of practices.
Jeena: Exactly. Yeah.
Scott: So what would meditation be? What are some things that could be meditation?
Jeena: Yeah. So there’s lots of different types of meditation. I think most people sort of think about, you know, sitting cross-legged with your eyes closed. I will also say, like, you can meditate in any form, right? So you can sit in a chair. You can sit on the floor. You can also practice lying down. You can do a walking meditation, and you definitely don’t have to sit cross-legged. Lawyers sometimes will be like, “I could never meditate because I have really tight hips, and I can never sit that way.” You don’t have to sit cross-legged. Yeah. So, you know, just finding a comfortable seated position, and then sort of a really classical way of practicing meditation is to just observe your breath.
Scott: I mean, literally, what would that potentially consist of?
Jeena: Yeah. So you know what? We can do, like, maybe a one minute practice for the listeners that wanna try it. So, obviously, you know, like a disclaimer, don’t do this if you’re driving, but, you know, wherever you may be, if you’re sitting, that’s great, if you’re lying down, that’s great, if you’re, I don’t know, in the bathtub, that’s also great, wherever you might be. It’s helpful though to just allow the eyes to close, and if that feels really uncomfortable to you, kind of narrowing your gaze and…so finding a spot maybe three or four feet in front of you and gazing softly at that spot, and just noticing what that experience is like. So just paying attention to whatever it is that may be present.
So you might be noticing your environment, different sounds around you, or notice different thoughts, and just very gently begin to notice that the body’s breathing. And, of course, the body is always breathing, so you don’t need to change how you’re breathing in any way, but just noticing the physical movement of the breath and the body, breathing in and out. And it’s very natural for the mind to wander, to engage in thinking or worrying or making the to-do list or daydreaming, and when you notice this, just very gently return back to the breath, breathing in, and breathing out. And let’s close the practice by wiggling the fingers and toes. It feels good. You can stretch, and whenever you feel ready, allowing the eyes to open. And that’s it. That’s a very simple meditation practice that you can do.
Scott: Well, thanks. I really appreciate you doing that. And for those that, you know, maybe have never done this before just so you know, I practice in the south. My practice’s in the Atlanta area. And so, I think, if I mention meditation to some people, particularly if they come from a particular religious tradition, it evokes some anxiety that there’s some “eastern religion” to this, but really, this is not…I mean, it can be religious in nature, but could you say a little bit more about the relationship between meditation and mindfulness and the notion of religion?
Jeena: Yeah. And I’ll just preface this by saying I am not an expert in that particular area. You know, I think, I come from the mindfulness of meditation more from like a science perspective and really, you know, understanding the neuroscience and the physiological reaction that takes place when you’re practicing meditation. But, I think, you know, in every religion, there is this understanding and emphasis on presence, right? So, you’re present to what is actually happening in the moment. You’re present to human suffering. You’re present to your own experience of the world.
And also, you know, there’s, of course, different types of prayers, which, I think, has a lot of similarities and overlap to meditation as well. You know, and I’ve certainly known people that practice their, you know, mindfulness and…maybe that’s not exactly the right word, but, you know, there’s centering prayer, and there’s lots of different types of essence like really dropping into yourself and either connecting with your own nature or the nature of God, you know, just connecting with something that is, you know, sort of deeper than the mental chatter that’s constantly going on in the brain.
Scott: Yeah. I think that’s really helpful. I think it comes from a tradition that really is from what I understand it is completely doesn’t take a position on whether you believe in a deity or not or what that deity is. It’s a set of practices.
Jeena: Yeah. I think we can certainly practice it in that way. I mean, certainly, and also not taking away from Buddhism. I mean, certainly, even like pre-dating Buddhism. You know, if you kind of went back, there was always…I mean, humans from the beginning had this sort of curiosity about, you know, understanding the world around them, understanding themselves, and there was this like long, long tradition of, you know, you call it prayer or meditation, the benefit of creating silence, of creating stillness.
Scott: Which kind of leads me to another point. And this is something that I found in trying to practice this. I can get up in the morning, and I can go through a perfectly great routine, I could meditate, journal, you know, do a yoga practice, do whatever, and I will find that environment really matters. And we can’t all…particularly as lawyers, and you write about this in the book, the notion of things that we can control in our practice, and I mean the law practice, things that we can control and the notion of things that we can’t control. And so, I think, practicing law, and I do criminal defense and some amount of personal injury and some business litigation. So, I’m very much in a litigation practice.
I find that I will often be put into situations where, I don’t know, sometimes the clients feel, like, very frustrated with the system, and they’re not in a place where they can talk to some of the people that are gonna decide things that are gonna have a pretty big factor in what happens to their…I mean, their lives hang in the balance of this system that frustrates them, and particularly now that in Georgia, the court system jury trials are shut down. So people feel less in control of their fate than ever. Sometimes the lawyer is the one representative of the system that they have, and we become the lightning rod for all of those frustrations.
And sometimes we’re dealing with people who maybe, you know, sometimes aren’t making the best choices, and so we sometimes are the recipients of a good bit of anger. Sometimes when we’re in court, the things going on around us are chaotic. There’s lots of anger. The judge may have had his or her fill of all kind… So by the time you get to 1:30, and maybe the judge didn’t have lunch, then everybody’s upset. So sometimes when I find that if I get placed in an environment that is chaotic, that we have things coming at us, and we’re surrounded by others who aren’t being particularly mindful, it can be challenging to maintain that.
Jeena: Yeah, for sure. So, two things I wanna say about that. One is that being mindful doesn’t sort of protect us from external circumstances, right, which is fairly obvious when I say it that way. I don’t know. I think, you know, maybe like when I first started practicing mindfulness meditation, I thought, like, none of these external things that are happening should have any influence over my mood, how I’m feeling.
Scott: I’m emotionally bulletproof now because I have this new thing that I’m doing.
Jeena: Yeah. And that’s not true at all. It just isn’t. I guess, you know, maybe to take like an extreme example, like if someone close to you died, and you practice mindfulness meditation like it would be kind of crazy to think like, well, you shouldn’t have any emotional experience, right? That’s actually probably unhealthy. What I’ve actually learned is that I…actually, it’s like creating a lot of space for my own emotional world. It’s not the absence of your own reaction. It’s the ability to recognize your own emotions and your own reaction and like being kind to yourself about it.
So, you’re in courtroom, your clients are pissed off at you, and the judge is just cranky, and like all of these things are happening around you. It’s not that you’re going to sort of be emotionally bulletproof, it’s that you have the ability to sort of process everything that’s going on and, like, move through it with a little more skillfulness and more ease. And, I think, where mindfulness meditation really comes in handy is, so in that moment you’re like, “Wow, there’s a lot of these things happening, and what’s the best sort of moment-to-moment decision I can make right now?” And also later in the day when you’re at home with your kids, and you’re making dinner or, you know, whatever it is you might be doing. You’re not still sort of carrying your day, right? You didn’t leave your mind back in the courtroom.
Scott: One thing I find is you find yourself as a lawyer sometimes in these situations where it seems like nobody is happy with you. The judge isn’t happy with you. You know, the system is adversarial, so your opponent is, not necessarily out to get you. But the opponent is working really hard to make it where you lose. And so sometimes your opponent’s not happy with you, and then very often, your client’s not happy with you. So like nobody’s happy with you. And in a situation where you really can’t yell at the judge, you have to sort of maintain your composure with the client, and you have to sort of be strategic and think through how to deal with whatever trap your opponent may be setting for you. You don’t really have a lot of control over those folks, and if you’re not careful, the first opportunity that you have where it’s safe to yell at somebody, that can end up being vented on someone who’s completely innocent.
Jeena: Yeah. Exactly. Right. And the training of mindfulness allows you to add a little moment of pause, right, between the stimulus and the reaction, which then becomes a response. So you get more skillful at not having those knee-jerk reactions. You know, I think, that’s like one of the huge, huge gifts that we can learn from practicing mindfulness and meditation.
Scott: And I know that you ultimately…I don’t think you’re engaged in the practice of bankruptcy law now. I mean, I think, you’re now full-time in the meditation space. I don’t know what to call it. You’re now a full-time author, and I know that you do retreats and you do classes, and so I know that your career now is very much devoted to helping lawyers. When did you make the decision to do that?
Jeena: You know, it was sort of a gradual transition. Just lots of like life circumstances too. We had a baby. My husband and I were running the bankruptcy law firm together. My husband ended up getting a job with the state. I was just like, “It’s just life,” right? You know, COVID happened, and it just…I just felt like I had like so many balls in the air, and at least in that moment, it felt right to close our law practice and for me to really focus on my consulting work and for my husband to continue practicing law at the states.
Scott: Did you find that in your bankruptcy practice though that through these tools that you were developing, how did that make a difference in how you were approaching the day-to-day life of being a practicing lawyer in a traditional law firm setting?
Jeena: In a lot of different ways. One was like constant like baggage that, I think, you know, we all tend to carry around as lawyers where like you’re literally dragging your caseload with you, sometimes physically as well like, you know, you sometimes have to drag boxes of paper around, but, you know, that like mental load of like always feeling like my brain was at work, that went away a lot. You know, I was able to sort of let things go a lot more easier, so, you know, I may have just, right, your client may say something to you. Before I would, like, chew over that conversation in my head like for a month. That really subsided a lot, or at least I was able to recognize when my mind was doing that and say, “Oh, my mind is doing that thing again. That’s an old habit.”
Scott: The worst for me is you’re at dinner with friends, or, you know, you’re doing something with your children, you take that brief peek at your phone, and then there’s that mean email or that mean text that will literally…you can look at your phone, and if you’re not careful, you can see a sentence or two that will just crash your weekend.
Scott: So, you were able to let go of some of that it sounds like.
Jeena: Yeah, for sure. And also maybe going back to that presence thing. I found that…it’s so strange because I felt like my clients…I think this is sometimes true like in criminal defense and lots of different practice areas too. I felt like my clients really appreciated the fact that I was there. They knew I was their advocate and that I was able to meet them where they were at. You know, sometimes they would be really upset. You know, I stopped taking it personally. It’s like, yeah. It’s like, yes, this sucks. Yes, it’s unfair, and I’m here for you. I think I was able to sort of allow their emotional world, their emotional outburst, their frustration to sort of like move through me rather than like holding it, you know. Before I felt like it would just kind of get all trapped, and I would sort of like get upset at the fact that my clients were upset, and it’s like…
Scott: You’d feel defensive. Sometimes I have a tendency to feel like this is an attack on me as a lawyer. It really has nothing to do with me, really.
Jeena: Yeah. Yeah. The legal system is just so limited, I mean, what it can do, the relief it can provide. And, you know, sometimes like the only thing I can do is just be like, “Yeah, it really sucks, like it really sucks that, you know, you had this whole string of life events happen. You know, your husband dies, and you lose your job, and, you know, your house goes into foreclosure, and on and on, and on, and you’re in bankruptcy. Like all of that is terrible. And this little piece is the only thing that I can do, but I can also just show up.” And like, I think, meeting that human suffering with compassion is really what the mindfulness meditation has taught me. And my clients like really seem to appreciate that. You know, I think, again, that’s like a skill that’s not taught in law school.
Scott: We have a tendency too if we’re not careful. I mean, it’s particularly starting out because we’re trained in law school to sort of filter out things that are “important” and things that are “not important.” And so a lot of times, clients wanna tell us things that we have a tendency because of our training in law school to just dismiss as being unimportant. It really is unimportant to how the judge may decide the case. It’s unimportant in terms of the ability to take that thing that they’re upset about and translate that into emotion or to an argument. And so there’s a tendency to dismiss that and think, “Well, that’s not important.” If you’re not careful, you just sort of will cut the client off. And I think that’s something that I’ve done in my practice that I’ve needed to sort of notice because there’s something that’s important to the client. They just need to say, and it could be they’re telling you this is how they’re suffering.
Jeena: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. You know, in bankruptcy, a lot of times, the client like needs to tell me their story, and really the underlying message is that I’m not a bad person, right? I would imagine that also in criminal defense that’s also true. Right. And, of course, like none of us are the…some of who we are isn’t the worst thing that we’ve ever done in life anyway. You know, but they need to tell you their story, and, I think, my ability to just have a lot more spaciousness around and just being able to like sit and listen to a client really changed. And also like weirdly, I’m also drawing boundaries. So I feel like this is sort of like the weird like sort of the bookends is one, I felt like I was more present to my clients, but also I was much better able to be like, “I do not respond to emails on Saturdays and Sundays.” It’s that understanding. It’s like I have to secure my own oxygen mask first so that I can show up and be the best attorney that I can for you.
Scott: Say more about that concept of drawing boundaries. It seems counter-intuitive to the topic at hand that we’re discussing overall that part of this practice is setting boundaries with the client. So, say a little bit more about that.
Jeena: All of us, you know, need downtime, right, I mean, for lots of different reasons, and also just emotional and psychological boundaries. And it’s kind of tricky to even understand what that looks like. So it’s sort of an ongoing dialogue that you have with yourself, but I used to believe that I had to be on and available to my clients 24/7. So that meant, you know, if my client emails me at 11:00 pm, and I just happened to wake up at 1:00 to use the bathroom, and I happen to, of course, peek at my phone, I had to respond to that client at 1:00 am, immediately.
Scott: I’m guilty of that too.
Jeena: Yeah. And I realized that when I operate in that way, that leaves me depleted. And if I’m practicing with that sense of depletedness, I can’t be the best attorney possible, right, or a good mom or wife or any of those things. And so I learned that there are certain things that I have to do to just maintain my own well-being. And this isn’t like a checklist of 26 things that I have to do every single day. It’s just more of like a conversation and like a check-in that I have with myself, which is where meditation comes in so helpful because you can see like, “Oh, you know, I haven’t…I’m a little bit sleep-deprived, or, you know, I need to go see the doctor. I need to go see the dentist, or I need to go for a walk, or I need like a mental health day.”
And so that I’m like learning how to take really good care of myself. And the strange thing is when I first started doing that at my like therapist insistence, I was convinced that everyone was going to be angry with me, like, “Oh, honey, can you watch the baby for an hour, so I can go to a yoga class?” And I would be like, “I don’t know. Maybe he’ll be upset,” and he was like, “Yeah, sure that sounds great,” you know. And, I think, that sort of fluency or that practice of doing. And then it’s interesting because I’ve also had other people say like, “Oh, yeah, that sounds great.” And it also like frees other people to do the same. Like in modeling that type of behavior has this interesting ripple effect.
But also part of that is drawing actual boundaries in terms of like, “What does my relationship with you look like, and what are some of, you know, the boundaries that I’m not willing to allow you to cross?” And for me, like a huge part of that was how much access I was going to give to my clients. And again, I felt like, “Oh, they’re going to be upset with me.” And, I think, this is much easier to do with new clients. So like I actually changed our letter of engagement, and it was very explicit about like what the expected turnaround time is, “For when you email me during this time, you can expect the return response from me within this time frame.”
Scott: Oh, so, you actually put in your engagement letter things like how the communication would go.
Scott: Well, that’s very smart. I’ve never thought about doing that before.
Jeena: Yeah. You, know, and it’s sort of like setting the rules of engagement, right, for how our relationship is going to go and also just like opposing counsel. Like how I interact with my opposing counsel also shift, and, I think, this is a little bit more challenging. I just at some point decided that I was not going to sort of stoop down to engaging in incivility like I just…like that whole like tit for tat. There’s just so many of those things in our legal practice that I just was not going to engage in that type of behavior, that I was not going to send nasty emails, that, you know, if there’s like one of those conversations that I have to have, that I was going to do it over the phone.
And interestingly, in bankruptcy, like I work with the same opposing counsel a lot, and there were a couple of like really, really difficult relationships where like I would like literally think about this person all the time because I was so angry at her. And I just decided like I am going to really just sort of work on letting that hostility go, you know, and I won’t say like we’re besties, but like we started to engage with each other in a more civil way. Maybe that’s just easier because, you know, we have to sort of work with each other all the time versus like a one-time, right, interaction.
Scott: Right. If you got a nasty email…we talked about avoidant behavior before, and sometimes emails feel like the more avoidant path. It feels like, you know, we can say things on a keyboard that we would probably never say on the phone to another person or certainly never say in-person to the other person because it’s so tempting to go ahead and respond, and it feels so good at the moment. Was this the mindfulness that was letting you kind of put some distance between that? How are you…? That’s easier said than done.
Jeena: Yeah, for sure. You know, and it was not like I started practicing mindfulness then all of these, you know, things just happened immediately.
Scott: The clouds parted and the sun came down and everything was great.
Jeena: Yeah. No. Yeah. You know, I think just creating space, right? So you get an email, you read the email, you can feel the heat rise in your face, your stomach tightens, your heart’s beating really fast, and you identify and go, “Oh, there’s anger.”
Scott: There it is.
Jeena: There it is. There it is. And sometimes I would just sit there and write my angry response and then…
Scott: And not send it.
Jeena: And not send it. Yeah. I got really good at writing like very, very, very long angry emails and not sending it. The really interesting thing that happens is when someone sends you an angry email, and you send an angry email back immediately, that person will then immediately turn around and send you another angry email, right, and you get into this battle of where you’re trying to win, you know, World War III over an email.
Scott: And at no point is either of you going to say, “Oh, my gosh, you know what? You’ve proven me wrong and I resign the field to you like you…to your superior intellect, I note that you were right and I’m wrong.” But that’s never gonna be the resolution to that kind of dialogue, never.
Jeena: Yeah. And rarely, if I took 24 hours or 36 hours to respond with my opposing counsel instantly send me a response back, right? I don’t know. Like you’re slowing down the tempo in which you’re engaging with each other. You know, I think, that’s like my number one tip is to not engage in that. And it’s hard nowadays, right, where, you know, everything is so instantaneous, and, you know, sometimes it’s hard because sometimes you’re just pissed, and you just wanna say something, you know. Yeah.
Scott: So, in your book…it’s excellent, by the way, “The Anxious Lawyer.” I bought it when you were nice enough to agree to be on the podcast, and I know that in “The Anxious Lawyer, you know, basically, there’s an eight-week guide in here that sort of takes you through a set of practices. I would recommend this to anybody, by the way, “The Anxious Lawyer.” But suppose that someone came to you, and they said, “Jeena, I don’t really have a lot of time to read, and I’ll probably get around to your book one day,” but what are some good…? Like someone could, you know, tomorrow they wanted to sort of get a handle on their anxiety, what are some things like literally practically if I were gonna just block out in my calendar or tomorrow, “These are two or three things that I’m gonna do”? What are some basic things that you would recommend to lawyers to deal with anxiety or begin to get a handle on anxiety or maybe get a glimpse of mindfulness or meditation? What are some things you’d recommend to a person to start doing?
Jeena: Meditate for a minute or two. I would recommend one minute a day, but because I know lawyers are overachievers, I would say two minutes, and do it for 30 days. Pick a time in the day, put it in your calendar, which can feel a little bit silly because you’re literally blocking, you know, out…
Scott: A minute.
Jeena: …a minute or two. And there is, you know, a good research out there that if you meditate for two minutes a day over 21 days, you’ll start to notice some of these benefits that we’ve been talking about, and you might be like, “Oh, that sounds so simple.” Well, it’s really simple. So go ahead and do it for 30 days. And, you know, what that does is it creates an opportunity for this to become a habit, right? You know, it’s so easy for us to sit around and like intellectually talk about the benefits, a lot of these practices, but, you know, we’re not going to gain the benefits unless we actually do the practice. So, yeah, just meditate every day for 30 days.
And I’m gonna guess that for a good number of your listeners, there will be a day where they either forget it or something happens, and that’s where, you know, you can really become discouraged and engage in negative self-talk and say, “Oh, gosh, darn it, you know, I was going to meditate for a minute a day, and I couldn’t even do that, and I’m such a failure, and, you know, on and on and on.” Like kinda letting go of that self-judgment and just do it, you know, and that’s the really nice thing about meditating for like a minute or two is when you remember that you have forgotten to do it, you can do it right then and there. So this is how I actually learned to meditate every day is I said I’m going to…at a minimum, I’m going to meditate for a minute or two every single day. And there’ll be days, it’s, you know, 11:52, and I’m in bed finally, and I’m exhausted, and I go, “Shoot, I forgot to meditate.” I just set the timer for one minute. I close my eyes and just meditate, and then I check it off and go to sleep.
Scott: And then for that minute, what do you do? Are you doing basically what the exercise was that you brought us through a minute ago? What literally are you doing in that minute when you say meditate?
Jeena: Just breathing through, you know, feeling the movement of the breath in and out of the body. You know, for some people, it’s really helpful to, like, find a specific spot in the body where you’re like, “Okay, that’s where I’m going to pay attention.” So it could be like the tip of the nostrils where you can feel the air moving in and out. For some, it could be like the back of the throat if you can actually feel the movement of the breath there or in the chest as your lungs rise and fall. I always pay attention to my belly because that’s also where I hold a lot of tension, especially like if you’re doing the practice and you’re laying down, you can place a hand like right over your belly button and just feel the rise and fall of your belly like, you know, waves in the ocean. So you’re just paying attention, breathing in, breathing out, breathing in, breathing out, and then watch the weird things your mind does, and then coming back to the breath and breathing in and breathing out.
Scott: You don’t have to have a cushion. You don’t have to sit in the lotus position. You literally could be in your bed or sitting at your desk in a chair.
Jeena: Yeah. Yeah. The only thing you need to meditate is your mind and your body, and we have that available to us all the time.
Scott: So that’s kind of one thing that, you know, someone could practically do now. What are you doing on a daily basis? Sort of take the listeners through what your mindfulness practices these days.
Jeena: So I have a 20-month-old, and because of COVID, she’s home with us five days a week. She’s in daycare two days a week. So I do a lot of like toddler meditation. I do actually meditate for 10 minutes every day, but that’s mainly because I actually offer a live Zoom meditation every single day. And sometimes, you know, she’s like a wild child, and she’s just running all around, and she’s pulling my hair. Occasionally, she’ll sit next to me for a second and close her eyes, which is just super adorable. So, you know, meditating for 10 minutes, and then I do like a lot of, like, mindful pauses.
So, you know, when I’m washing my hands, not always, but often I take that moment as an opportunity to just take a breath like literally catch my breath and feeling the sensation of the water and the soap against my hand and just breathing for an extra second. I’m also just really, really mindful about the amount of like media consumption, news media. To me, I noticed the decline in my mental wellbeing when…and I know when it’s happening because it’s like I’ll start to feel kind of fatigued. I get that like mental fog. I feel anxious all the time. It’s like, oh, it’s because, you know, I’m scrolling, I’m doing the doom scrolling, and I have to stop. So, you know, just kind of putting some parameters. You know, I go outside, walk, even if it’s just for a minute or two. In January, my husband and I always do “Yoga with Adrian.” She’s on YouTube. She teaches yoga.
Scott: Actually, she’s great.
Jeena: She’s great. Yeah. And so every January, she does 30 days of yoga. So we’re on, what, day 21 now.
Scott: She’s the person with the dog that’s always [crosstalk 00:56:45].
Jeena: Yeah. Yeah.
Scott: Yeah. Right.
Jeena: So I do that. Well, at least right now that’s what we’re doing. And then, you know, I practice being really, really present with my 20-month-old daughter, and, you know, it’s lots of like playing blocks and playing blocks, and my mind is, you know, thinking about, right, like fill in the blank, and then I go, “Oh, yeah, my mind is thinking about that, but right now what is actually happening is I’m playing blocks with my daughter. So let me pay attention to that.”
Scott: You’ve mentioned this, and you’ve mentioned media consumption. How do you manage your relationship with your smartphone? I’m so guilty of this, even though I should know better.
Jeena: Yeah. So, I will periodically like delete all the apps from my phone. So, you know, for me, it’s like Twitter and Facebook are like the two of my guiltys. So I delete those. And, you know, just kind of like watching and seeing like, “How do I consume the media,” so whether that’s Facebook, Twitter, you know, your inbox, text messages. Like how does media get to me, and what does that relationship feel like? Does it feel helpful? Does it feel harmful? And if it is harmful, what is it about it that feels not healthy? So, you know, I’ll periodically go through and like delete apps from my phone. I don’t do it as much now but not having the iPhone on the nightstand. I have it on my nightstand, and this is like one of the things about living in 2021 is that I have a baby monitor, and the baby monitor is, of course, on my phone. So I have to have my phone.
Scott: And it’s app-based. So you have to have it there for that.
Jeena: Yeah. So I don’t know. But before we had Simone, my husband and I made the agreement that we would leave our phones on the kitchen counter when we went to bed at night, and that so radically helped just, you know, how much sleep we were getting. We would actually talk to each other or read books or, you know, do other things rather than doom scroll.
Scott: How do you keep up with email? What’s your practice for dealing with email and texts and things like that?
Jeena: I definitely check my email like a lot of people. I tried various things over the years, you know, like only checking my email a certain time of the day. What I started to do is actually, like, kind of read my email throughout the day but actually carving out time like a couple of hours. I basically do it every other day because, like, none of my emails are, like, urgent, urgent, so this probably won’t work for everyone, where I’m like sitting down, and I’m replying to all the emails. So, often like if you email me, it’ll take me a day or two to get a response back, but I found that’s helpful because then, you know, I’m sort of like I read the email. So it’s not like anything urgent. I’m not, like, anxious about it. And also it kind of gives me a little bit of time to like formulate a response.
Scott: So you’ll consume email the way I guess I probably do when I feel like I’m not handling it well, that you carve out time, not necessarily to check email, but you carve out time that’s your response time.
Jeena: Yeah. Yeah. So, the benefit of mindfulness and meditation practice is that you start to become aware of your habitual patterns and tendencies. So I noticed like, “Oh, I’m checking my email again, but wait, I literally checked my email, what, two and a half minutes ago.”
Scott: Thirty seconds ago.
Jeena: Yeah. And then I make different choices. It’s like, “Why am I checking my email again?” And, I think, there’s just like this kind of lingering anxiety, right, or maybe it’s like that trigger of the dopamine in your brain where it’s like, “Oh, I got another email.” And it might just be like, “Okay. Like what else can I do now? You know, what else can I do now to help alleviate that anxiety, or to get, I don’t know, the dopamine head? Or, you know, like what is it that I’m missing in this moment?”
Scott: Those apps are designed by people who are very smart at getting and maintaining…I’ve just recently watched “The Social Dilemma” on Netflix. Those apps are designed to maximize your eye on that screen. You’re not gonna beat them at this. We’re hardwired to do some things that that software is designed to exploit. And, you know, short of putting the phone away sometimes, I’ve decided that it’s going to beat me every time I try to defeat it if it’s in front of me.
Jeena: Yeah. And also like, you know, you, of course, know yourself, but, I think, the only…the best that we can do is to start to notice, right, and go, “Oh, this is my pattern,” and then asking yourself like, “How do I feel about this pattern?” So it may be fine that you’re checking your email like every 30 seconds, I think, for most of us, it’s not, and then start to, like, shift your pattern a little bit, right? It’s a gradual, like, you didn’t become instantly addicted to email. Like I remember there was like many, many years where like I would check my email like once a week.
Scott: Because you had to be at a computer lab, or you had to be at your desktop. It wasn’t even a thing.
Jeena: Right. Yeah. Until like these little…like dopamine-releasing devices came along that we hold in our hand all day long. Also, you know, until COVID, of course, I love going on retreats, whether that’s the day-long or weekend. I’ve done a month-long retreat, and it is shocking how your brain just feels different after, like, just completely, like, shutting down all the external noise. So, you know, if you have the ability to like completely disconnect from digital technology, even if it’s maybe like powering down your phone Friday night or locking it, you know, throwing it in a drawer on Friday night and, you know, maybe reclaiming it Saturday morning. See if there are little pockets, right, where you can like really disconnect, like digital detox.
Scott: And this leads me sort of to one more question, which is, you know, everyone would assume, and I bet we would probably assume incorrectly that Jeena Cho has this all figured out and is completely mindful 24/7 and has tackled all of this. And I bet that’s probably not true. Where are your pressure or pain points in this? Where do you find that things kind of…? Even as advanced as your knowledge is and even though you do this now professionally, where are the spots where you think things may sometimes tend to go off the rails for you with all of this?
Jeena: Oh, my gosh. Yeah. I mean, there’s, you know, for anyone that’s listening. And, I think, you know, every meditation teacher that I’ve talked to has said the same thing. All of those buttons inside of you, they’re there, like they’re always there. You get more skillful at maybe sometimes not pushing them as often or maybe having a more subdued or maybe a different reaction when those buttons get pushed. For me, I think, it’s maybe immediately my sort of day-to-day trigger points, I mean, aside from like the news and just like the craziness that’s happening right now, but also just like learning to be a mom to a 20-month-old who is not very logical, who is, you know, like doesn’t reason and will, you know, eat yogurt one day, and the next day she wants to throw it on the floor, and just kind of like watching my own reaction and just how angry I can get at a little 20-month-old and go, “Oh, there’s that reaction,” or just feeling super frustrated because she won’t eat any greens. It’s like, I think, all the human condition. Also, I think, just the grief. I’ve, like everyone, I’m just grieving the losses of people losing…grieving the losses of, you know, our day-to-day activity, just all the things that, you know, we so took for granted. So, I mean, all of those things, I think, compounded leads to just a lot of grief and sadness but also delight and joy.
Scott: It sounds like there’s plenty of places where we can find ourselves caught up in emotion, but it sounds…from what I’m hearing you say, it sounds like there are places where you finally notice it, and when you do, it sounds like the move that you have is that you don’t judge the emotion. You just say like, “There’s the anger, or there’s the sadness,” and you just kind of see it.
Jeena: Yeah. Not always for sure, but, yeah, it’s certainly more…yeah. I mean, you know, there’s sad… There’s outrage. You know, there’s outrage on injustice or, you know, in just…or things not being how it should be. There’s definitely like that little six-year-old girl and, you know, the side of me that comes out it’s like, “No, that’s not fair.” It’s like, “Oh, yeah, that’s what that feels like.” You know, that’s what outrage feels like. This is what it feels like to watch the suffering of others. You know, so many countless people losing loved ones to COVID.
Scott: I think when the numbers get huge like they have and the number of cases and the number of deaths. Sometimes the numbers can get so large that you lose sight of, you know, every one of those numbers is a human life. That can be difficult. And the news has not been easy to watch at many levels for a very long time.
Jeena: Yeah. You know, I think like collectively, we’re all struggling with some level of like…I mean, definitely levels of trauma, right? You know, there’s like take your pick, and I’m like wildly waving my arm here. You know, take your pick at all the things that I just, again, like, I think, unimaginable. You know, I remember like last February and March when the whole COVID situation started, I was like, “I thought it would be a little…” You know, I thought it’d be over in like a few months, and here we are, you know.
Scott: I thought that when there was a vaccine, I thought, “Well, we have a vaccine now. This will be over soon,” and now there’s…I think this is so frustrating that we have a vaccine, but there’s not enough of it.
Jeena: Yeah. Right. And, you know, just the rollout and how COVID is impacting people so differently. I mean, I feel so incredibly blessed that, you know, I think, COVID has impacted us, like, directly in fairly minimal ways, but…
Scott: Well, I really appreciate you taking the time to speak with me on this new podcast of mine, this fledgling podcast. I’ve really enjoyed it. I know that listeners are gonna enjoy it. Is there any last thing that you’d like to say to my listeners?
Jeena: I’ll share what my mindfulness teacher…it was like one of his favorite questions. And, I think, it’s not so much like finding an answer to the question but like living the question. And he was very fond of asking, “How can I be kind to myself?” That’s pretty profound, you know, checking in with yourself, asking yourself like, “How can I be kind to myself?” And maybe a different way of framing that is like, “How can I be kind?” Sometimes it’s, like, really hard to be kind to yourself. It’s sometimes easier to be kinder to others. If you struggle with that question, you might ask yourself, “If this was my best friend or, you know, my mom or my daughter going through this situation, what would I tell her?” And treating yourself kindly.
Scott: We would never say the things to our best friend who’s struggling with something similar to what we’re struggling with that we say to ourselves. I think we’re always harshest on ourselves. Well, I really appreciate it, Jeena. Where can people find you if they’re interested in learning more about you or learning more about your consulting, or if they’re interested in a book or are interested in some of the courses that you provide?
Jeena: Sure. They can go to my website, which is jeenacho.com. They can buy the book on Amazon, or I guess Amazon’s like the only place we buy books now. But, I think, they do carry that like Barnes & Noble, but it’s “The Anxious Lawyer.”
Scott: Well, thank you so much for joining me, and I really appreciate it.
Jeena: Thank you so much.
Scott: Thanks for listening to “The Advocate’s Key.” For more information and content like this, including a transcript of this episode, be sure to visit scottkeylaw.com. And please rate, review, and subscribe to this show wherever you get your audio content.