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The persuasive and life power of quiet, calm, non-judging, deflation and evaporation

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Why do I adore great jazz music so much? Let me count the ways, starting with the utter excellence that great jazz demands of its composers and performers, and including that jazz and classical music have always been my favorite types of music to study and work by, with the absence of words to distract me and the abundance of music to help me enjoy the moment in order to focus on the task at hand. Speaking of the task at hand — the present moment — great jazz is all about the present moment, beginning with a loose or tight  musical structure to be known before altering or building from that structure, with amazing things unfolding from there. Does music get any better than John Coltrane playing Naima?

As I dug jazz starting in junior high school, most of my peers were heavily into rock music, right into high school and college. Plenty of great rock music is out there, but jazz speaks to me the most. For countless hours, most of my jazz listening during those years was in solitude.

I learned early on to embrace the power of solitude, not just in listening to jazz, but in so many other pursuits, including long distance running, practicing my trumpet, studying, and preparing my clients’ cases beyond my discussions with my clients, witnesses, my staff, investigators, and colleagues in building as winning a case as I can.

College was a particularly wonderful time for solitude. I had my own dorm room for three years. I opted out of having a television. The Internet was a fanciful concept at the time, so I did not have the Internet, email nor social media to distract me. I typed my papers on a typewriter rather than a computer. Even fax machines were so new during my college years that at my first post-college job at Wall Street’s Irving Trust Company, I watched fax machines in 1985 running by the fax machine’s picking up a phone headset and moving the headset to where the incoming noise could be heard.

As time passes, truer than ever ring the words of the late great John Johnson, who urged: " The life of lawyering is filled with noise and turmoil. Peace is hard to find – even in seeking after justice. Modern mankind runs amok in anxious pursuit of an elusive technological happiness."

I first read John Johnson’s foregoing words when he handed them to each of us at the 1995 Trial Lawyers College, before I had ever checked out the Internet, and before email was common with more than a small minority of people. Within two years from there, all had changed, with those without email and online access having to catch up with information in so many ways. By now, the Internet offers a multitude of ways to manage one’s time well, or to waste it.

All non-human animals get along just fine without technology, doctors, psychologists, and self-help books. What beyond intelligence levels make humans so in need of technology? As to communications and transportation, for thousands of years humans got along fine without telephones, caller ID, electricity, and mail; and they got along fine without cars, planes, trains, and FedEx. Those who do not watch out can get sucked into constant and misdirected chatter and movement aided by technology, rather than taking command of their own daily activities and time management 

Few people in the working world can escape all this technology. For my own work, for instance, I am daily in touch with clients by email, and with my staff by email while offsite between going to and returning from court. Federal court litigation requires filing court documents online and being notified by email of other parties’ court filings and court orders. I do most of my legal research online. I blog online.

Technology by itself is not a bad thing. However, where before the Internet broadcast and cable television were among the greatest technological time-wasters, at least television did not invade the workplace, whereas rampant overuse of the Internet for personal purposes is epidemic in workplaces.

The power of silence, of the pause, and of the calming breath can never be underestimated. The power of mindfulness, meditation, and, for me, taijiquan, is amazing. 

Noise — as opposed to beautiful music — will always be available to me. When I offset the noise with calm and silence, I am all the better able efficiently and calmly to handle the noise. I boil all this down to the concepts of quiet, calm, non-judging, deflation, evaporation, and decompression. After quiet and calmness, addressed above, I move to not judging ourselves nor others — which is curious to address when judges, prosecutors, and police whom I deal with are constantly judging — because judging can be our undoing. I am stronger when I simply do not judge, and clients certainly prefer a lawyer who will not judge them.

Next I come to deflation, evaporation, and decompression. How I would love for courthouses to have meditation rooms, particularly for decompressing meditation after a long drive distance-wise or traffic-wise, but I know of no such courthouse. For that matter, I love the idea of the meditation option after I arrive at a multitude of places, including a business meeting, a lawyers’ gathering, a family gathering, or even a visit with friends. I will not impose my meditation yen on others, but very much appreciate when others give me the time and space to meditate.  

Taijiquan  is moving meditation, and is great way for me to decompress before going into a courthouse when I arrive early, and when the weather is fine, the bugs are not biting, and courthouse security is not interrupting my taijiquan by interrupting me to ask if I am okay. A good criminal defense lawyer friend has gone as far as to urge me not to do taijiquan so as to be visible to my  jurors, but I think that any thoughts by jurors that my taijiquan makes me a weirdo — when taijiquan is among the most healthful and thereapeutic of life pursuits — can be offset by the calm that my taijiquan might impart on them as it makes me calmer. 

When meditation and taijiquan are not feasible upon my arriving at a courthouse through much traffic or much driving, I can sit quietly in my car first, when I do not take the subway. I can also engage in mindfulness in each moment, which Jon Kabat-Zinn is so great at teaching

Rather than letting myself get sucked into the drama, negativity, judgmentalism and tragedy that are so rampant in the courthouse, at my best I remember that my emotions are to be controlled internally without regard to what is happening around me while at the same time being fully present and engaged with the events around me. In addition to the foregoing approaches for handling such phenomena is to use the concepts of evaporation and deflation. Consider Fred Lehrman’s recounting the great taijiquan teacher Cheng Man Ch’ing’s response to a student distraught over "overpopulation, food shortage, energy resource depletion, atmospheric pollution [and] radioactive waste". After the student expressed dissatisfaction with Professor Cheng’s reaction, the Professor responded by pointing to his cup of hot tea. For me, I think of evaporating the issue in my mind to stay in powerful balance, rather than letting myself get sucked into it. Lehrman characterized the Professor’s response as: "He sat quietly for a moment while we pondered the empty space left after the world had destroyed itself. ‘Don’t worry about it,’ he said , Nothing gets lost.’" "Don’t worry about it" is another approach. Worry is not needed for being compassionate, fully aware, and concerned. Worry weakens. 

Deflation is another way of looking at evaporating an issue. Instead of my getting sucked into an issue to make me nearly burst like a balloon, I can imagine the issue as a filled balloon that I untie and let the air out of.

Everyone can benefit to the foregoing approaches to life, from judges, prosecutors and defense lawyers with huge dockets, to police constantly with the lives of them and others constantly on the line, to the busiest of servers and chefs at a diner, to patients and doctors in critical hospital care wards, to everyone else.