Mindfulness, meditationMindfulness is a concept that has become part of mainstream American culture over the past decade. Hectic lifestyles, information overload and constant distractions have led more of us to look for a way to quiet our minds. In fact, many public schools, professional athletes, large corporations, and even the U. S. military, are using meditation exercises to reduce stress levels. Divorce is one of life’s most stressful experiences. Often much attention is focused on the past and the future, triggering both unpleasant memories and fearful expectations. As someone who knows first-hand the benefits of daily meditation, I see great value in using mindfulness principles in my Collaborative divorce practice. Starting the divorce conversation respectfully sets the tone for a more purposeful process. Awareness that the parties are often in different stages of divorce readiness is important. Becoming unmarried may be something that one spouse has contemplated for many years, while the other considers the marriage’s rough spots to be normal. Jointly exploring available divorce process options can also reduce fear and surprise. Processes emphasizing guided conversations between the parties, such as Collaborative divorce and mediation, reduce the likelihood of miscommunication and empower parties to achieve mutually acceptable solutions. Intentionally choosing the timing and method for divorce together establishes a calmer tone for the road ahead. Having patience during the process results in healthier outcomes. The strong urge to get things done as quickly as possible is understandable. It seems that the sooner the divorce can be finalized, the sooner life will return to normal. However, the decisions to be made are life changing with long-term impacts on the entire family. Trying to move too quickly can result in replacing one bad situation with another. Slowing down and accepting the divorce experience for what it is can allow for a deeper understanding of the issues involved. Acknowledging the good and the bad of the marriage without judgment provides valuable insight. Identifying each party’s contributions during the relationship can help the healing process begin. Recognizing one’s own part in the failure of the marriage can provide valuable insight for future relationships. Letting go of bitterness and regret is essential to moving forward in life. For divorcing couples with children, accepting “what is” allows them to redefine their relationship and communicate more effectively in the future. The ending of a marriage is, unfortunately, an all-too-common event. However, if done mindfully, divorce can be an opportunity for personal transformation and growth.
Yoga - Tree poseWelcome! Namaste, as they often say at the beginning and ending of Yoga classes. If you are going through a divorce or separation, one of the best pieces of non-legal advice I can give you is to take up Yoga (or reengage with your existing practice with renewed determination). Now, you may be wondering: “What in the world is the connection between divorce or separation and Yoga?” Well, Yoga can help fight stress, depression and anxiety, among other health benefits, which are common health and wellness issues to address when you experience conflict in your life. As a Collaborative Practice Lawyer and Family Mediator, who works in the middle of family conflict on a daily basis, I have benefited from practicing Yoga as a means to reduce my stress level, to increase my resiliency to stressful situations and to improve my overall fitness level. If it works for the professionals you are working with, it could just as easily work for you. I recommend Yoga to anyone going through divorce or other family conflict or significant life transition.  Yoga just provides a nice mix of low-impact physical movement and increased stress resilience. There are many different types of Yoga, but in most western Yoga studios, Yoga practice is about connecting with your physical and mental self.  There is a focus on being mindful of your breathing and feedback from your body as you move through the poses or as you simply sit or lay still.  It often incorporates a portion of meditation practice that teaches us to observe our thoughts non-judgmentally which helps us further observe our physical reaction to our thoughts and feelings and, as a benefit, to feel less negative physical reactions to stress. To learn more about Yoga, you may want to check out your local Yoga studio(s), which you can find by Googling Yoga and looking through the local results.  Also look online at Yoga Journal.  I am a subscriber of Yoga Journal and have copies on-hand at my office for clients.  For my own personal practice, I’ve been very tempted to try out streaming online classes from myonlineyoga.com, which has a huge selection of classes and has a very low monthly cost. It goes without saying that it is incredibly helpful to be able to maintain a sense of calm during tense discussions (yes, even in Collaborative Practice!) about important things such as parenting schedules for the kids and different options for dividing assets and debts.  What if you could do a better job of keeping your cool and keeping your focus on your long-term goals and concerns, instead of how mad you are about what your spouse just said? Give Yoga a try.  Namaste.