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A moment of repose

A moment of repose

As we approach another changing of the seasons

and a close to the year

I pose

this question

to you and for you

to consider

In a moment of reflection and repose

I suppose

It’s not too much to ask

Not too much to request

and suggest to myself

and to all who will receive it

That we take a breather

and embrace the stillness

the isness

and

the ever-available forgiveness

of the moment.

For your consideration:

Among the hustle of the holiday season, may you set aside a quiet moment of reflection and repose? Heck, set a timer for 22 minutes, if you must.  Yeah, okay, that may not sound particularly spiritual, but it works!

For me, this holiday season so far has been one of deep study and stillness amongst the storm of society, external influences, and seemingly endless unrest.  I go within, where all is well. I invite you to do the same. Let your soul be your guide.

Okay, your turn:

Would you rather plow through the holidays, making lists, and checking things off the list, going back to the list, checking the list again, and on and on? Or, would you rather smile at the joys of the season, the light, the shimmer and the glimmers of hope? What you see is what you get. The light is what you are.

I invite you to share your observations, feelings, and experiences by leaving a Reply in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2021 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.

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Today is your life

“Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”

“Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”

This phrase, popularized during the 1960s and ’70s has a nice ring to it, indeed. A catchy phrase, so to say. It’s a way of reminding us that we can start fresh, start over, each day brings a new dawn. It’s the latter part of the phrase, though, that can be confounding. The “rest” of your life, as in the remainder of your life, what is that, exactly? It’s unknown. It’s the grand mystery. The remainder could be years, months, or an instant.

Today IS your life, yes?

Sure, there’s the unfolding. There’s the becoming. There’s the planting, the cultivating, the growing, the expanding, followed by the harvesting and the fruits of our labor. There can be beauty, grace, lessons, and meaning in all of these. Heck, many a Soul Notes article has been devoted to these topics. In my own life, and in others’ lives, I advocate for the process of envisioning, and easing into the flow, and merging with the natural cycles.

There’s wisdom in setting sail and course-correcting with awareness and intention. It’s not an either, or. It’s an all-in. All-in this moment. All-in with all senses engaged. All-in awareness. Now. And again. And again.

For your consideration:

Here’s another popular phrase: “We have time to kill.” If we’re simply treading water waiting for the ‘real’ event to happen, then what happens in the meantime? It’s ALL in the meantime!

As the signs say along the tracks of the London Underground: Mind the Gap.

Living with awareness brings the present moment into focus. Living without awareness is a life, erm, not really lived — a life suspended, like a tolling of a statute of limitations. Don’t be that person. Be you. All of you. All the time.

Okay, your turn:

Rephrasing the ‘the first day of the rest of your life’ into: Today IS your life — When you read this, what comes up for you?

I invite you to share your observations, feelings, and experiences by leaving a Reply in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2021 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.

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From disciple to discipline

From disciple to discipline

 

Once a student

always a scholar

 

Disciple comes from the Latin for student

and Old English for scholar

 

Who is teaching

and who is learning?

 

A disciple:

One who follows

and yet who is leading?

Truly?

 

What does it take to lead

Or to follow one’s lead

 

Is it discipline?

 

A steady, consistent

grounded

follow through

in a way

that invites a welcomed result

without leaning too hard

on specific expectations

rather on beautiful outcomes

 

and remaining open to surprises

not unlike

the writing of poetry

or the reading of poetry

 

the writing of a poem

the reading of a poem

 

Did this take an unexpected turn?

Are you surprised?

I smile as I write this

I hope you do too

as you read this

 

Following

a follower

or a following-through

of sorts

 

Hopefully devoted

to devotion

or so it seems

at the seams

along the edges

then all-in

fully immersed

in the sea of wishes

and dreams

and with the continued discipline

to see them emerge

in their fullest

expression

 

And we’re back.

 

For your consideration:

What about following, or leading, evokes a stirring within you? Anything?  All things? Certain things?

For me, curiosity runs through me almost like life’s blood. It doesn’t waver. To try to stop it would be like trying to hold my breath.

Questioning, seeking, learning, solving, not quite solving, learning again, solving, not quite solving. Life offers a Rubik’s cube of possibilities.

Okay, your turn:

Would you consider yourself a follower, or a leader, or both? Are you always learning, studying? When do you turn from being a learner to a doer, to an experimenter, an explorer, an adventurer? Or, do they blend into one another?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences by leaving a Reply in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2020 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
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Reclaiming our Six Minutes: Infusing Time with Moments of Joy and Sessions of Solace

Six-Minute Increments: Redefined

Recently, I was doing a little spring cleaning and decided to dive into a filing cabinet that I hadn’t opened in years. One of the first several file folders I pulled out contained a copy of one of my daily time sheets from my first year as an associate at a 100-person law firm in Los Angeles. Also in that file folder was a print-out of the year-end time tally sheet from my full first year at that firm. In defense practice (aka, “big law”), as is typical, my time was measured in terms of one-tenths of an hour — you know, those seemingly endless strings of six-minute increments. There they were – every billable and non-billable time segment all tracked and tallied.

In big law, no matter how many hours one puts in during a given day or evening (and there are often many), it is back to tabula rasa the next morning. Without or even sometimes with a strong center, that tends to do a number on your psyche and your overall sense of well-being. It can take a noticeable toll on your physical health as well.

Reclaiming Our Time

So, what to do about it? While I realize it’s naïve to think that billable hours will suddenly disappear altogether as a common metric, it is definitely within each attorney’s control to “reclaim their time” (to borrow a now-gone-viral phrase used by Rep. Waters during a congressional hearing last year) in ways that are more sustaining and rejuvenating, and from a place of strength and empowerment.
Now I can hear you asking: “But if I’m already packing in so many hours on cases, building a book of business, and attending continuing legal education seminars, how could I possibly squeeze in any other time for myself or any other more life-sustaining activities?” To that, I say, consider this: a lot can be experienced in six minutes or less. Ask any downhill skier or 1,500 meter runner (or person looking to catch the last remaining flight)!

You’re already capably putting in time well spent on behalf of the best interests of your firm and your clients, so why not do so for yourself? Without getting into the metaphysics of how to bend time (although that is definitely a fun topic to discuss with a friend or colleague over a glass of your favorite beverage) – let’s explore creative ways to “take back time,” and make it yours, at least once in a while.

Alternative Ways to Use Time

You can weave a number of short activities into your work day, throughout the week, or on the weekends. Here is a list to keep handy, of some examples to try, that are easy to do up to six minutes at a time:

  • Deep breathing in and out, slowly and deliberately
  • Looking out a window and focusing on an object in the distance such as a tree or the horizon
  • Standing quietly in a comfortable yet grounding and centering yoga position (such as mountain pose or archer pose)
  • Tapping your feet or dancing to an upbeat song (such as “One Love” or “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley, or “Say Hey” by Michael Franti & Spearhead – heck these songs are only 3-minutes each, so in six minutes you can listen to any of them twice!)

These won’t transform your world or your law practice in an instant.  They will, however, likely shake you loose from any overthinking, fuzzy thinking, frazzled nerves, or just plain fatigue and burn-out…if even but for a little while.

What’s to be gained

The benefits to be gleaned from these brief and empowering uses of time are many, and include:

  • Giving your mind a rest
  • Giving your body an opportunity to move and change positions
  • Allowing your breath to slow down and become more even, and less erratic
  • Granting yourself the gift of returning to your law practice more refreshed and less strained
  • Seeing your case strategies from a fresh angle or perspective
  • Gaining clarity around a perceived roadblock in a particular case or cases
  • Ultimately effectuating more creative, surprising strategies and potential outcomes for your clients

A Respite from the Frenzy: Six-Minute Saturdays

To help get you started, I’m creating a series of short videos that I’m calling “Six-Minute Saturdays” (SMS).  Feel free to subscribe to my YouTube channel to be among the first to receive notifications of these videos as they are released on…yes, you guessed it: Saturdays.  You can view them of course whenever it’s convenient for you.  (I figure this way, you’ll be encouraged to devote at least one six-minute time segment a week completely,100%, to you!) The kick-off video for SMS is available for viewing now: To watch it, go here.

For your consideration:

What will you do for six minutes that are “all your own,” devoted solely (and soulfully) to your own well-being, starting today?  Pick one from the list above, or come up with one of your own, and let me know how it goes!  As the saying goes, there’s no time like the present.

Okay, your turn:

When you find yourself feeling stressed and unable to focus, what do you tend to do?  What’s your default ‘coping’ mechanism?  Does that help…in the short run or the long run? If that hasn’t been working well for you, what would you like to choose to do, instead, if even for a brief six minutes?

I invite you to SHARE your thoughts, feelings, and experiences by leaving a Reply in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2018 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

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An Ode to Love (aka, ‘not your usual’ love letter)

February, the month of love.  Oh, how we love (and sometimes don’t) love thee, February!

This new moon’s edition of Soul Notes is dedicated to love.  May love find you and you find love in all the divinely inspired ways possible…this month, and always.

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Dear Love,

Thank you for sunsets

and sunrises

Thank you for moonrises

and moonsets

 

Thank you for rainbows

and moonbows

and mountain tops

and mountain bottoms

And landscapes

and horizons far and near

and seas to cross

and seas to see

and salty wind sprays

off the ocean

And unswept beaches

with crawly sand crabs

and scurrying sandpipers

 

Thank you for the crunch of gravel

and the scent of pine needles

and the shape of pine cones

and the sweetness of pineapples

 

Thank you for fireflies

and hummingbirds

and macaws

and geckos

 

and the clippity clop

of Clydesdales

 

and the sounds of drumming heard from the drum circle

down in the valley

 

Thank you for heart beats

and heart swells

and heart warmings

 

Thank you for goodbyes

and hellos

 

Thank you for touch

and taste

and ecstasy

and bliss

 

Thank you for stretches

and stretching

and growing

and restoring

and

Thank you for the

remembering

 

Thank you for new levels

and old reliables

 

Thank you for healing

and healing space…s

 

Thank you for being there

even when I don’t seem to notice

 

Thank you for seeing me

Thank you for hearing me

Thank you for listening

 

Thank you for knowing all the things

The secret secrets

and the not so secret

 

Thank you for the holding

and the mystery

and the understanding

and the hope

and the reassurance

 

Thank you for the reason

and the unreason

of it all

 

I am with you

We are with you

I am you

We are you

And it is…

divine

Okay, your turn:

What does this poem bring up for you?  What is love?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2018 Lori A. Noonan. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Savasana and the power of sweet surrender

Restore and Replenish

Ultimately, this practice helps “ready and steady” you for success as you return to the world refreshed and more available to handle its opportunities, challenges and stresses.

During this time of year, as nature slows down and takes a quiet breather to restore and replenish, it’s a good time to revisit our daily practices and employ simple yet effective ways to follow mother nature’s wisdom.   As nature turns inward, I invite us to do the same.

Heading into the holiday season as well, this can be a time of year that may heighten our nerves and trigger deep emotions.  This too makes it an ideal time to implement consistent daily practices to ground ourselves,  and help us “settle everything down”.

In this moon’s edition of Soul Notes, we explore the ancient practice of savasana, and a technique called 4-7-8 breathing.

Turning Inward

So often in our fast-paced world, we seemingly forget to relax! Even low-level activities which we may be thinking are ways to relax often serve more as a mental distraction, and aren’t truly relaxing at all (watching television news, anyone?)

What if we were to allow ourselves to drop into a state of quiet neutrality, where all of our hurried, harried, frazzled parts can come back together and rest?

Savasana, or “final resting pose”: This asana (posture) is typically reserved for the end of a yoga practice.

After a revving up of the body, nervous system, organs, muscles and blood flow during yoga exercises, savasana serves many blissful purposes, including:  reintegration, restoration, and a letting go of any mental chatter, agitation, or “gripping.”  It’s an easing into the floor or ground upon which your body is placed – on your back, with legs comfortably apart, arms opened, palms facing upward.  Eyes are closed.  Breathing is calm, slow, and deep. Savasana is typically done for 5-10 minutes, and may even be done for up to 30 minutes at a time.

By engaging in savasana, you more easily become aware of your breath and your mind state.   Ultimately, this practice helps “ready and steady” you for success as you return to the world and all its many challenges, opportunities, and stresses.

Another way to “turn inward” and combat the day to day stresses we all face, is to combine savasana with a 4-7-8-count breathing technique made popular by Dr. Andrew Weil. As with other yogic breathing, it’s best done with your tongue placed up and against the inside of your upper front teeth.  1. Take a slow deep breath in, for a count of four.  2. Hold the breath for a count of seven.  3. Release the breath out for a count of eight.  In one session, repeat this 4-7-8 breath cycle four times, to complete “one round”.

Start out breathing at a counting pace that’s comfortable for you, and over time you’ll find yourself being able to slow down your breathing and elongating each count.  The sequence, however, remains the same:  4-7-8. In total, a round of four breath cycles takes no more than two minutes, tops!

It will help you relax any time of day.  And, it will help you fall asleep.  Train yourself to do this to help you get centered, grounded and calm before you react to any stressful situation.

Although savasana is usually done at the end of a full yoga set, I’m inviting us all to try it on its own, as part of our daily practice, especially between now and the end of the year. Both savasana and the 4-7-8 technique have compounding positive effects when done consistently and over the course of several weeks and months.

Savasana and the 4-7-8 breathing technique — each of these practices are whole and complete on their own, and need not be done together.  You actually don’t usually see them done in conjunction with one another. I’m suggesting, though, that they make for a powerful combo pack!  I invite you to try them together, at least once a day.  Do a ten-minute savasana, followed by a four-cycle round of the 4-7-8 breathing.

Sweet Surrender

Both of these practices serve as forms of physical and energetic surrender, in all the best ways.  It’s a conscious and powerful choice to grant ourselves devoted time to recharge and receive the bliss that comes with sweet surrender.  Look at the image of the child above, so pure, so relaxed…so open to all of life’s joys, triumphs, and love!

For your consideration and “extra credit”:

In addition to doing one savasana daily*:

Several times throughout the day — and especially right before going to sleep – do the 4-7-8 breathing exercise. Remember this practice takes only a minute or two to complete.  You will serve you and your overall health and well-being tremendously by doing so!

*For a refresher on daily practices, go here.

Okay, your turn:

What daily practices, if any, have you been doing throughout the course of this year? Have you tried any new ones?  Are you open to doing something a little differently throughout the holiday season?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2017 Lori A. Noonan. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Total Solar Eclipse Edition: Lessons from the Dark Side

The Great American Eclipse, Oh My!

It’s a particularly energetically charged time in the United States, as evidenced by recent politically volatile and even at times highly venomous and violence-infused protests, and counterprotests, resulting in understandable public outcries and feelings of despair and disbelief.

Perhaps then not-so-coincidentally, with this rare total solar eclipse, in the U.S. we are also witnesses to:

The sun’s shadow being cast upon the Earth, traversing along in a large swath forming an arc from West to East, across the United States, from Oregon to South Carolina.

In this edition of Soul Notes, we explore the need to rise above the fracas of duality and instead embrace a renewed commitment to bringing forth a new dawn – one of universality.  We truly are all in this together.  Our survival as a society and as a nation may depend on it.

Lessons from the dark side

“We have an opportunity to rebuild, from a strengthened foundation, together, rather than as separate and apart.”

Perhaps one of the most well-known among Pink Floyd’s albums, The Dark Side of the Moon contains a song with that phrase within the lyrics of the album’s final song entitled “Eclipse.”

That song describes a descent into madness. While symbolic and figurative, the song is also based in part on what actually does happen in the natural world.  Due to tidal locking, the moon rotates on its axis in nearly exact correlation with its revolving around the Earth. (This is known in the science world as synchronous rotation.) Accordingly, from Earth we always see only the same, one side of the moon.  The opposite side remains dark to us, hidden from view.

So, too, is the case with our own sensibilities, upbringings, cultural orientations, and pre-judgments of ourselves and others.  What is our part to play in all this?  As citizens? As voters?  As participants in our political system and in our legal system?

Unless we challenge the “usual orbit” of love and hate, we will always be seeing only the one side or viewpoint – as it’s the only one we’re willing to see.  What if could do an “about-face” and take a long not so easy look at the dark side of our own beliefs?  What if we were to shed light on the shady undertones of our prejudices? I dare say that’s the golden opportunity afforded to each of us as we experience these seemingly insurmountable (perceived) differences among us.

If each of us chooses to be driven by love and not by fear, and not by unbridled anxiety and distrust, then we can take conscious action and effectuate positive change. We can choose to evolve rather than devolve.  As a society, we have an opportunity to rebuild, from a strengthened foundation, together, rather than as separate and apart.

Scientifically, we know that the universe is expanding.  This time of tumult affords us all the opportunity to expand with it, rather than contract or constrict.

It’s Time to Invoke Our Collective Imagination Over Mind

As with a solar eclipse, when the light appears blocked out, we can then better feel into what’s been lying in wait — what’s been hidden in the shadows.

As the divine feminine reemerges, and ethnic equity and gender equity gain more ground, the apparent  threat to the outdated patriarchy becomes all the more real.  Are we reaching a cosmic collision point?  As a nation, are we going to come out the other side of this stronger, more unified?  Or, will we end up even further divided?  Are we moving forward, or regressing?

The conditions are ripe for creative, imaginative solutions to emerge.  Not unlike the financial downfall of the Great Depression serving as a great catalyst and driver for an unprecedented influx of innovation -–the time is now for the collective imagination to become the order of the day.

What if duality were no longer how we positioned things?  What if we were to approach these political divides from a place of universality, instead?  As humans, after all:  We share the same air, bleed the same blood, shed the same tears.

Dualities keep us in a power struggle.  It’s as if we’re each sitting on opposite ends of a teeter totter, competing with each other to fling the other one up and down off the same, single fulcrum.  What if both sides were to step off the teeter totter altogether, and join together on common ground?

Polarities, Dualities and the Opportunity for Growth:  “A Justice of Wholeness”

As Celtic mystic John O’Donohue suggests:  As humans, having a mind “means we’re always confronted by dualities.”

During an interview with Krista Tippett, he went on to say:

“And, I think this is where the beauty of the imagination works.  I think the imagination is committed to what I’d call a ‘justice of wholeness’ and bringing these [polarizing sides] together.”

“The mind separates. And when the mind separates and draws barriers in the heart of these dualities, and the barrier becomes a real barrier as there are [sic] no longer space for breathing, then you have dualism.”

Prophetically, O’Donohue concluded:

“And then you have things cut off that should belong together.  And that’s the heart of all fundamentalisms and fascisms.”

His solution?  He offered this:

“I think that keeping one’s imagination alive always keeps you in vital conversation with the ‘othernesses’ that you tend to avoid or neglect.” (Emphasis added.)

Vital Conversations

Now is the time to reflect on how we treat each other — not only face to face, but on social media as well.  As we covered in last moon’s edition of Soul Notes, Dr. Emoto’s water experiments demonstrated that water’s exposure to written words such as “Thank You” resulted in dramatically different results than when exposed to the word, “Fool.”

So, what is it that we’d like to amplify?  The hatred or the love?  How far apart we are, or how closely we can come together?

It’s time for us to have those vital conversations.  Try having the first one or two with someone who is more likely to lean into the conversation with you from a place of respect and willingness to listen, rather than the urge to berate or cajole.  It’s time to be consciously selective, and with the intention of healing hearts.

It’s going to take all of us: Meaning all of me; all of you.  Are you in?

For your consideration:

We need to adjust our eyesight to examine what we have been conveniently avoiding, or simply keeping in the dark altogether.  And, from that place, we can take compassionate action.  This is the true power of love.

Okay, your turn:

In what ways have recent events brought out into the light for you new insights?  Are you ready to have a vital conversation or two?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2017 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
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Staying the course, and the value of course corrections

Staying the course, of course! Or, rather, is it time to make a course correction?

“Without paying close attention, it’s easy to get off-course.”

Sailing back home from Catalina Island

Years back, a friend invited me to join him and a few of his friends for a weekend of sailing.  We left the shores of Marina del Rey, California and sailed across the 33 nautical miles to Catalina island, spent the weekend on the island, and sailed back. There are several tales to be told from that weekend, some more wild and adventurous than others!  For purposes of this blog post, allow me to focus on one aspect of the trip – and that is our return sail from Catalina, across the Pacific Ocean and back home.

Upon the return, I took my turn at the helm.  Clearly, we knew our intention, and our destination –  to get the boat and ourselves back to the mainland and the port from which we had originally departed.  It was at that dock where we had left our cars, too – so we knew that’s where we needed to point the boat.

Steering wheels on a boat work pretty much the same as a car – turn the wheel to the left, the boat heads toward the left; rotate the wheel to the right, the boat points toward the right.  Sounds simple enough?  Yes and no.  Out on the open ocean, conditions are in a constant state of flux, from the weather conditions, to the wind speeds and direction, to the water currents and cross-currents, to the presence of marine life and sea animals.  Additionally, the faster the sailboat is moving, inversely the more precise and subtle the movements needed to adjust the direction of the boat.  (There are lessons to be learned here about momentum, too.  Perhaps that topic shall get its due in a future edition of Soul Notes?)

Other things are simultaneously happening on the boat, too.  While the boat’s wheel moves the rudder, the sails themselves are usually in need of their own tending in the wind.  And, that’s not even taking into account the sway of the boom upon ‘coming about’…be ready to duck, or you may be knocked over by a solid wood beam!  In other words:  pay attention to what’s happening.  Be aware.  You’re the captain!

A slight variance makes for extensive consequences

Without paying close attention, it’s easy to get off-course. Even a less-than-one-degree variance as you’re heading toward your destination, especially over the course of dozens of miles, can mean the end point is miles from your intended target!  That indeed would have notable and undesired consequences.

If we were to veer that far off course, without course corrections, we’d find ourselves facing one of two situations: either we’d end up hitting the shoreline at a point where there’s no place to dock; or, we are able to dock the boat and yet are miles and miles from where we parked our cars.  (The same thing can happen upon leaving your car near the foot of a mountain, and trekking up one of several available hiking trails.  If you take a ‘wrong turn’ on the way back, and end up on a different trail at or near the top – without a course correction, you’ll likely find yourself hiking all the way down the hill only to arrive several miles away from your starting point. Hill bottoms by nature are substantially wider than are hilltops!)  So, the scope of error increases exponentially, unless and until you notice you’re veering off course and make the necessary course corrections along the way.

I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.”  — James Dean

During this time of Summer Solstice, it’s wise to take another inventory of your life, your dreams, and your aspirations. Here’s a reminder from last Winter Solstice’s edition of Soul Notes:

“Review and Replenish

Every 90 days or so (you can use the solstices and equinoxes as an easy guide from the natural world) examine — not only your luggage and passport, but your life’s dreams and ambitions.  Not unlike the natural world, your life is dynamic and fluid.  Quarterly review and replenishment is about right – any more often than that, and you may be disallowing your aspirations their full due.  Your life is worth it – no short-changing or robbing your priorities the opportunity to fully settle in and calibrate. Throughout the year, consider:  How do you feel?  How do you wish to feel? “

For your consideration:

Is it time to course correct?  If so, what areas of your life are in need of calibration?

Did you keep notes in a journal near the end of last year, heading into this year?  Did you review it during the equinox three months ago?

What has emerged or changed for you since then?   Are your desired destinations the same, or have they shifted?  Has something or someone in your life changed in terms of your priorities, and what’s important to you?  Which ones may have veered a bit off track?  What steps will you take to get them back on track?  Make a commitment to yourself to do so, lest you find yourself miles away from your intended destination.

Okay, your turn:

When in your life have you noticed you’ve veered off course?  What, if any, course corrections did you make?  How did that impact the result?  Are there times when you didn’t notice you were veering off course?  If so, what if anything could you have done differently to increase your awareness?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

 © 2017 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
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What does it mean to have a strong constitution?

A Strong Constitution

When someone refers to someone else as having a “strong constitution,” they usually mean that the person is of strong mind and body.  They see that person as having a grounded, centeredness about them – a hardy, stable core and foundation, from which all else stems.

The same can be said with regard to a country’s Constitution.  The United States (U.S.) Constitution dates back to 1787 and is the oldest formal national Constitution.

Presidential Oath

In Article VI, Section 1, Clause 8,  the U.S. Constitution sets forth (and the one and only place where it does so) a word for word Oath to be taken by a member of the federal government.  It is the Presidential oath, and it states, as written in the Constitution:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of the President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” 

Many constitutional scholars contend that this oath was explicitly spelled out in the Constitution precisely so that the Office of the President and the person holding that Office would be different from a King – in both power and structure.  This was by design.  The oath was memorialized in the Constitution to remind future presidents that they are not royalty. Presidents are not to “rule over,” but rather to act as servants of, the people.  This oath was written into the Constitution as a safeguard to ensure Presidential restraint.

All of this, of course, is to be done in service of (not denying), the Constitution and its tenets.  Those tenets include:  “Separation of Powers” and a predetermined set of “Checks and Balances.”

As designed, the Constitution established a separation of powers among the three branches of government:  the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial.  The triangular form of government was built upon the foundational belief that no one branch should have authority over another.  And specifically with regard to the Executive: The Presidential Oath was designed to serve as a reminder and explicit “internal check” on what would otherwise be unbridled power in the hands of a singular person at the helm of the Executive branch.  It is important to note that the Presidential oath is the only  oath that is spelled out in the Constitution itself.   Having left behind a monarchy, our country’s founders felt strongly about limiting the powers of the President.

Cooperation and Collaboration

The framers of the Constitution also captured their thoughts and intentions in a series of essays known as The Federalist Papers. As made clear by James Madison in Federalist Paper No. 51 (entitled, The Structure of the Government Must Furnish the Proper Checks and Balances between the Different Departments):

“[T]he separation of powers frustrates designs for power and at the same time creates an incentive to collaborate and cooperate, lessening conflict and concretizing a practical community of interest among political leaders.”(Emphasis added).

The nation’s founders desired that the members of our government work together on behalf of the greater good.  Collaboration rather than conflict was the message of the day.

So, what is one to make of it, when we now see such divisiveness within the federal government, and in particular with regard to what many contend is an irreverent, cavalier attitude and stark semblances of “king-like” behavior being displayed by our current President?

Some examples:

  • Signing more than 30 Executive Orders within the first 100 days of the presidency, including two international travel bans that were quickly challenged on Constitutional grounds;
  • Removing several mainstream media outlets from White House press briefings; and
  • Resisting any limits on business dealings that raise potential conflicts of interests, as proscribed by the Constitution’s Emoluments clause (which prohibits public office holders from accepting gifts or monetary remuneration from a foreign state).

While not the first or likely the last Presidential administration to invoke executive orders, the sheer number of them being signed so quickly at the start of a President’s Administration is nearly unprecedented.

And, limiting and even excluding certain members of the press corps at the White House press briefings smacks of blatant disregard for the First Amendment.  Traditionally, journalists and the news media have been considered to be a “fourth estate,” and as such are often considered to be another “check” on any otherwise untethered governmental power.

Also, the current President has demonstrated complete disdain for members of the Judiciary.  He openly criticized and scoffed at federal judges who, on Constitutional grounds, ruled against him on two of his so-called Muslim Bans.

Reflections

The past few months have been rather disheartening for me. I’m sure I’m not alone in this sentiment. In particular, I have been feeling as if the fabric of our Constitution, over and over, was being sliced to shreds. For me, the impact of recent news events and what’s being revealed about members of our federal government, extends well beyond political party lines and affiliations.  It hits at the very core of our nation’s, and by extension the world’s, stability.

The ultimate outcome of this Presidency, and of any federal investigations and the like, remain beyond the purview of this blog article.  My focus and intention here, however, remains this:  to shed some light on why all this matters.  It matters to us here in the United States; and, it has worldwide implications, because:  Put simply, unexamined and unchecked abuses of power are a threat to everyone.  Carefully examined (ab)uses of power, however, are critical to the ongoing survival of our nation and the planet.

Accordingly, it brings me great solace to see that recently:

The ever flowing tide of executive orders has noticeably ebbed.

Journalists at the White House press briefings are literally and figuratively standing up to apparent obfuscations and inconsistencies in statements made by the Press Secretary on behalf of the Administration.

Members of both parties less and less seem willing to simply “look the other way” with regard to potential or actual conflicts of interest, and other strains on our Constitutional safeguards.

And, most recently, the appointment of a Special Counsel to oversee an investigation into the role, if any, that the Russian government may have played in the 2016 presidential election — and potential collusion by members of the Administration — sends a strong signal that unbridled uses of Executive power and influence will not go forever unexamined or unchecked.

While the Constitution may have suffered a few incisions during the past several months, I’m comforted to see signs that they may ultimately have been only flesh wounds.  The Constitutional net formed by the threads woven together by the framers more than two centuries ago remains strong.  Throughout the various attempts to unravel it, the Constitution continues to hold it all!

We do have a strong Constitution.  It rests, as can we, on a solid foundation.  And, its well-crafted weave keeps the bottom from falling out.  That is, indeed, good news.

Okay, your turn:

What does a “strong constitution” mean to you?  As citizens and constituents, what should we expect or even demand of our elected representatives?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences by leaving a Reply in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2017 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
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From idealist to lost in the practice of law

From idealist to lost in the practice of law

I set off to the University of California at Berkeley as a budding journalist. What better place, perhaps, than at the home of the Free Speech movement?  Along the way, I spent two college summers in Washington, DC, living in Georgetown, and interning in the nation’s capital.

And, by the end of my junior year, while I enjoyed writing and reporting and broadcasting (I was a news reporter for the campus radio station) – I came to realize that a career in law was what was really calling to me. One of my majors was in Political Science, and I knew that I desired an advanced degree and was eager to learn more about Constitutional Law, and in particular the First Amendment.

I headed off to Boston University School of Law, where I had been accepted into their joint JD/MA program in conjunction with B.U.’s School of Broadcasting. Overwhelmed, though, by the high cost of living and at the time even higher interest rates on my law school loans, I made the difficult decision to try to get accepted to another law school in a more affordable town. I ended up transferring to a law school in Sacramento, California where I could save money on rent. And, I was able to apply for and did receive an academic based California Graduate Fellowship to help fund my education. Nonetheless, lacking any proverbial ‘rich uncle’ to assist, I still remained financially challenged. I continued to incur tens of thousands of dollars in student loans.

The topics in law school, though, sometimes thrilled me. I learned even more about the First Amendment, including artists’ rights and other constitutionally protected forms of expression. I was ‘in the zone,’ thinking I could advocate on behalf of principles that I truly felt passionate about.

If you knew me back then, you would have called me an idealist. I was also, though, a pragmatist. I couldn’t end up helping anyone if I couldn’t afford to complete my law school education and pay off my law school debt. Accordingly, I found myself “chasing the almighty dollar.”

I went into what attorneys refer to as “big law,” by taking a job as an associate at a 100-lawyer civil litigation defense firm. Unlike the plaintiffs’ side, on the defense side, your “worth” is measured in terms of billable hours. Our time was broken down into one-tenths of an hour. Each morning, I arrived at the office with tabula rasa – a blank time sheet to be filled out.  It didn’t matter how many hours I had billed the day before. Each day, I was expected to prove my value to the firm, by racking up another 10-12 hours for that day, and so on, and so on.

We represented large corporations, mostly with regard to breach of contract disputes. Why did I end up at a large firm, doing something pretty much polar opposite to what I really wanted to do? In a nutshell:  Because it paid well.

My first year as an associate, I brought in a salary that surpassed any dollar amount that my parents ever made. I bought my first-ever and only “brand new car,” right off the lot, with only four miles on it. The firm had a courtroom built right into the center of one of the two floors we occupied in a Century City high rise. It had its own jury box, and two-way mirrors, and we were provided acting classes where we could hone our trial advocacy presence and skills.

Admittedly, at times it was kind of intoxicating. Parts of it did feed my ego as well as my pocketbook.  That feeling dissipated, though, within a short period of time. While grateful that I had landed a well-paying job, I became increasingly disenchanted with the practice of law.

Whatever work that I didn’t complete before I left the office at 7 pm, I often finished back at my apartment, sometimes up to 1 o’clock in the morning before needing to rise a few short hours later and beat rush hour traffic downtown to appear at the courthouse in time for an 8:30 am court appearance.

My energy, my enthusiasm, and my eager idealism – the very zeal I initially brought to the practice of law – was waning, and waning fast. Where did I go astray? The money’s nice, I kept telling myself, but I also kept thinking that “this can’t be all there is”? Like a line from that Talking Heads song, I kept saying to myself, “How did I get here?” This was not my beautiful life; not really.

What was unclear then, and has become readily apparent to me now, is that I was so focused on paying off my law school debt, that I was paying a steep price of a different kind: I was paying with my sense of purpose, my spirit, my health, and my overall joie de vivre.

Feeling as if my life had been reduced to six-minute increments, even standing in a post office line seemed stressful. “I could be billing my time, instead of standing here,” I found myself thinking. Day to day errands had become a source of dissonance and tension.

And the work that I was doing wasn’t fulfilling. While everyone deserves zealous representation, and I maintained my dedication to doing quality work for our corporate clients, my heart wasn’t in it. Instead of fighting the good fight to protect journalists, artists, and others deserving of First Amendment protections, I was drowning in the minutiae of whether certain conduct or conditions were considered breaches of contracts, and whether they would withstand judicial scrutiny.

And I was doing so in largely male governing, patriarchal law firm environments, where there were few women partners and no women serving as managing partners. There was no attention paid to bringing anything remotely akin to a “holistic” approach to running the firm or the practice of law.

While my brain and analytical abilities were put to good use, my consciousness, like a faucet, was shut off. All in pursuit of a paycheck.

Then even the paychecks stopped. That firm ended up going bankrupt. I was one of the few high-billing associates that survived the firm’s earlier lay-offs so that I could help keep the boat afloat. One fateful Friday, the office manager came into each attorney’s office, one-by-one, and let us know that even though our paychecks had been issued – it would do no good to cash them, as they would bounce. The bank had cut off the firm’s credit line, and there was no chance of a rebound.  Stunned, and angry, I soon also felt the sting of having to look for another job.

Ever in pursuit of an income to keep my debt from swallowing me whole, I took a job at another, smaller, law firm across town where another attorney friend of mine had headed. I left that firm within a year.  That firm had all kinds of partner in-fighting. And, among other things, this is the firm where one of the paralegals one day brought me into his office to show me the handgun, stashed away in his briefcase, that he’d been bringing with him into the office. The firm later fired him. Throughout, I was billing out at a rate of 2,400 hours/year. Walking into the office, on most mornings, I couldn’t even make it from the front desk to my office down the hall without someone at the firm needing to tell me about the latest shenanigans going on “behind the scenes.” I couldn’t stand it any longer. Practicing law was stressful enough, let alone working in such a turbulent and toxic environment.

One morning, after spending those middle-of-the-night hours breaking down in an emotional heap on the front steps of my local Catholic church (one of those dark nights of the soul, for sure) – I decided to give my two weeks’ notice, and to the shock of the male partners there, set out to find a more promising work environment. I ended up leaving the practice of law, and never went back.

That was a couple decades ago now,  and I’ve since paved my own way through a creative career path that I’ve carved out for myself, and while not always quite as lucrative, has definitely been more fulfilling.

Upon leaving the practice of law, it was about at that same time that I started to revisit and deepen my spiritual practice. And, recently, through expert guidance and tuning into my own intuition, I’m now discovering that I am fully committed to helping other women attorneys stay in the practice of law.

What if, yes, what if  I had the type of heart centered support from other women attorneys, mentors and role models available to me now, back then, so that: I didn’t feel so alone; didn’t feel so dismissed for my ‘feminine qualities’; I was valued for more than purely the number of hours I billed; and I was able to cultivate a culture that not only helped transform “big law” firm environments – but in doing so ultimately created more meaningful, heartfelt environments and results for litigants, too?

As a bit of an aside (yet, it’s relevant here!):  Little known fact about me – I’ve coordinated and participated in the painting of murals on walls of buildings all over Southern California. One of the murals that I helped design and paint was a children’s mural in a room down the hall from the Family Law department in one of the local Superior Courthouses. Our purpose was to create a welcoming environment for the children to have as a safe waiting room and play area, when their parents (and sometimes themselves) were scheduled to appear in court. Now, THAT was fulfilling. My heart swelled with every paint stroke as I brought fun pictures of farm animals and cute meadow scenes to life on those walls.

As I write this, I’m remembering and recapturing that which is the true essence of me. As I continue to listen closely to what my soul is calling me to embody next, I pledge to keep stepping forward to help serve those whom I’m most meant to serve.

Stay tuned!  I’m heading off to a remote setting, and will be “off the grid” for a vitality retreat led by one of my trusted spiritual advisors. I’ll be taking several days to discern and envision what the “whole”-istic approach to law may look like. And, I’m designing a program to help women lawyers do exactly that.

My idealism is back, front and center. I look forward to bringing it, and my new programs, to you!

Okay, your turn:

Where or when has your life path taken a sudden or surprising turn? What would you like to do differently going forward, given what you know now, that you didn’t know then?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences by leaving a Reply in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2017 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.