In this episode: mindfulness and compassion, overcoming anxiety and depression, cultivating compassion, finding meaning and purpose, and writing and creativity with Claire E. Parsons.
In today’s episode, I’m joined by my new friend, Claire E. Parsons, a mindfulness and compassion teacher, lawyer, writer and author of “How to Be a Badass Lawyer”.
Claire shared her struggles with anxiety and depression and how meditation helped her overcome these challenges. She emphasized the importance of compassion in mindfulness practice and how it can help us cope with suffering and stress.
Claire also talked about how cultivating compassion can help us find meaning and purpose in our lives, especially for those in the legal profession. It was a great conversation and I learned so much from her.
Claire E. Parsons is a lawyer, mindfulness and compassion teacher, and writer. She is the author of "How to Be a Badass Lawyer" and runs the Brilliant Legal Mind blog.
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Claire, welcome to the Mindful Fire Podcast. I'm so glad to have you here. Thanks for having me, Adam. so Claire, I'd love to have you start by sharing a little bit about who you are, your journey, and what you're up to in the world.Claire E:
So I am a lawyer, and also a mindfulness and compassion teacher, and I am a writer. I started, my blog, brilliant Legal Mind a couple years ago, and just surpassed, a hundred posts. And I also published my first book, last year, how to Be a Badass Lawyer. My journey to, teaching mindfulness and compassion is a long and strange one. it originated from me, struggling with anxiety and depression and a lot of overthinking early in my, or for most of my life that culminated in a difficult pregnancy that led to postpartum depression. And fortunately, myself and my daughter recovered from that, and are doing fine now. But that experience caused me to, really evaluate the way I was living my life, and start to learn practices to take care of myself, which first included meditation. and that changed my life demonstrably and very quickly. primarily because it helped me start to understand, my tendency to overthink and undo that, a little bit. And then I started to cultivate more, self-compassion, and confidence. and that led me to do more of the things I wanted to do, and address some of the, fundamental problems I was having in my life, like loneliness and things like that. and so once I was able to get that stability, I was really able. flourish and thrive. and then I gradually started speaking and writing about, that experience, and offering strategies to others, because there was a need. And also just because I really enjoy, speaking and writing.Adam Coelho:
Fantastic. Fantastic. so Claire, it sounds like mindfulness really came out of a place of suffering and anxiety and depression and that kind of led you to discover this. Of mindfulness. I can certainly relate to that. And both on the overthinking side, and for me, I was completely unaware that I had this overthinking, or I was completely unaware of the inner critic in my head, constantly, just not good enough doing things wrong. I have all these stories. I'm curious, When you started practicing mindfulness and meditation, how did that develop? I know there's a lot of people listening that maybe are very new to mindfulness or meditation and, maybe paint a picture of how you got going with it and what they might be able to expect.Claire E:
Yeah. So I, I think a good way to say what you were trying to start off asking me. I, I heard from, Chris Goer's book on self-compassion where he talked about the gifts of desperation. And I think when I started meditating, that was where I was, where I. Didn't necessarily know if anything could help, but I was willing to basically try anything, in case it might. and so the way that I ultimately got to start, start meditating was I, I was a philosophy major in college and one night I was. Stuck at Barnes and Noble, with my parents and my mother, who loves to take too much time shopping. and, we had family dinner and then went to Barnes and Noble after, so it was that kinda situation. I rode with them so I could not leave, and, my mom likes to talk to everybody, look at all the things, and I was ready to leave. So I wandered over to the Philosophy and Spirituality section because I hadn't read philosophy in a while. I found a book on Buddhism that I promptly shelved and ignored for years When I finally read it, it was one of the most compelling arguments on the human condition I'd ever heard. I'd read a lot of arguments when I studied philosophy that suggested that, A prescription for living a better life, but they always seemed to miss something. And when I read about Buddhism, it really seemed like it was much more complete and just realistic. And so I thought, I'm gonna start meditating. of course, years later, I had not done that. I had dabbled with it. Never got consistent. And then I had my daughter, in, 2012. and by 2013 I was back to work. I had mostly stabilized from the depression and things like that, but I was really busy. She wasn't sleeping through the night I was considering. going part-time or leaving law practice, which ends up being true for a lot of women. And I didn't know what to do. I had a two week wrongful death trial out of town, and I had so much to do that I would waste time trying to figure out what to do next. and that is when I started meditating. and it was like I didn't know what else to do, but I needed some kind of help. And I started about one or two minutes at a time. In my closet because it was the quietest place I could find in my house. I was, it didn't feel good. I didn't feel settled. I'm not even sure I could say I liked it, but there was some aspect of it where I felt like when I sat. I could just stop for a second. And the closest approximation that I can offer to explain what this felt like was you're rolling on roller skates, right? At a roller skate rink, and you lose your balance and you set your hand on the side of the wall and you catch yourself. And that felt good in pleasing in some way. So I stuck with it and the first thing I noticed was physical side effects of stress started to abate or improve. I used to get headaches a lot and I could feel like the stress drain out of my head and neck as I was sitting. I, I started to notice myself. Rushing all the time and realized I didn't need to. and then I started to notice myself get into thought spirals and I could sometimes pull myself out. So it was those very small things at the beginning that sort of kept me going. and it was over time where the real transformation started to take place. and so that's why I continue to do it. I've also had periods where there was a period a few years later that I stopped meditating pretty consistently and I started to notice all of the habits coming back. and so for me, I still count that as part of my meditation history because seeing what happens when you stop is The best thing that'll teach you that is something you need to do for life and fold into your life. so even if you maybe miss a session or whatever, come back to it. but it really is something that, it's a habit for life, that once you build into it, it can really make a huge difference.Adam Coelho:
Love it so much there. I can relate with so much of what you said, in my own experience and I think. when I stop meditating for whatever reason, life gets busy or whatever, that's when I really notice the benefits of meditation because I start to get, my fuse gets shorter, I get more. Reactive with my son and my wife and just overall like I'm rushing around and like when I find them in the worst mood, it's usually because I'm rushing or I'm like totally distracted, like if I'm looking at my phone or something like that. And so when I haven't been meditating, those things come up more and it's like a reminder like, oh, I could just start again. That's one of the things that has really been helpful for me. No matter what's going on, whether I'm sitting and meditating and my mind's been wandering for 10 minutes, I can just start again. Or I've been off of meditation for two weeks, I can just start again. And that kind of ability to come back to it and just start again has been so liberating and really takes the pressure off. I think when people start, they put a lot of pressure on themselves. They think they have to do it right or that there is some right way to. what do you recommend when you are introducing this concept to people who might have those thoughts or judgments about doing it right.Claire E:
I've always been super cautious about the way I teach mindfulness, because by the time I started teaching it, there was research about like the impacts of trauma and what that can do, when people try to start meditating. and so I've always been super cautious and aware that people just will respond to different practices differently. And so I think that I've always just been urged a gradual approach and, really try to encourage and, and and when I'm mostly I'm talking to lawyers, not only, but mostly. So like with lawyers, we already have the discipline piece down. Most of us have the focus piece down. What most of us need and what I've experienced is that like mindfulness hasn't really changed who I am, but it's balanced who I am more like just as a really maybe. Gross example of this. I'm an I N T or E N T J on the Meyers-Briggs, right? and maybe you don't like personality tests and they're not your thing. but, the, what I'm really saying is so that I'm, thinking and judging on the one piece, but on the other piece, connection and intuition is really important to my personality. When I started meditating, I started to. Allow those other pieces of my personality to have more of a say in the way I live my life. And so it bounced me out and that's how I see a lot of lawyers in particular and professionals I'm working with, where they have the focus and the thinking down. and they have the ability to be disciplined, but what they don't have as much is the ability to play. The ability to not know the answers to every question immediately, the ability to, understand how important kindness and compassion and care are, and to not feel like that is some kind of a liability. that those are actually strengths for them. And so that's why when I try to talk about mindfulness, I. early on, and have consistently always talked about compassion. I think that a lot of professionals and maybe even service providers offering mindfulness to professionals have been afraid to talk about compassion because they're afraid people won't listen. But I've always thought that's what people need more and most of the best mindfulness teachers teach those two things together. so I very much emphasize self compass. a gradual approach and a sense of play when I try to teach mindfulness so that people can, get started with it and learn from the experience of it, because that's actually how it's supposed to be done.Adam Coelho:
Yeah, absolutely right. It's not just knowing the practice, it's experiencing the practice and experiencing all the things that come up, all the judgements that come up, and how you relate to them. it's interesting you mentioned the compassion piece, and I want to dive deeper into that because. I've talked about it some on the podcast. I have practices with compassion, explicitly in them, some meta practices, love and kindness, things like that. But I want to dive into that a lot more with you as you've studied it extensively. But when I talk about mindfulness and I teach mindfulness, I talk about. The two aspects of the definition, right? And so the definition that I use comes from John Kabat-Zinn, which is the awareness that arises from paying attention on purpose in the present moment, non-judgmentally. And so when I talk about the two parts, there's the awareness part and there's the, non-judgmental part, which I think of as, being self-compassionate or having a kind, curious awareness. And I bring this up. I think that a lot of people, and I did for the longest time, just focus on the awareness piece. They're focusing on the breath, the mind wanders, bring it back over and over again. And that's fine. But the more that I brought the compassion piece in, the kindness, the curiosity, that attitude, the easier the practice became and the more enjoyable it became as well. and the more I saw the benefits off the cushion when I'm like dealing with things in my life. and so I really appreciate how you bring compassion into it from the very,Claire E:
I don't think you can have true awareness. Compassion, at least some level of it. I think when you really get into these things and you study them and you experience them over and over, you understand when meditation teachers say mindfulness has two wings to the bird can't fly with just one wing, and so you will not have full awareness. Without some sense of compassion. And there's a simple reason for that. One is the way that we so automatically react to things out in our lives. and we often, without our knowing it, we won't see things clearly when that is happening. We just won't. and so it's needed for that aspect of it. But I also think the other aspect of it is, it's really hard to look at some things in life, that are difficult and you need that sense of care and support to, to keep looking. I had this one retreat, that I did during Covid. I was actually like, I rented a tiny house and did it on Zoom by myself, cuz I knew I couldn't do it at home with my kids. and I always struggle on retreat in the afternoon. Sits like from like two to four, I just always fall asleep. And it's weird because I don't fall asleep anywhere. I never fell asleep in class. I don't fall asleep in movies. It's just not my problem. But on retreat it happens. And I remember sitting one sit and I was just falling asleep the whole time and it was so frustrating. And one thought came into my mind where it was like, sometimes it's hard to keep looking when you think, you know. and. But we have to keep doing that out in life. It can really matter to look closer and to look at something we think we already know and understand. And so reminding ourselves that we're human and that it's going to be hard, but we have the ability to keep looking and trying. Like that's absolutely essential. And I think that sometimes this gets missed, especially for professionals. I know it gets missed for lawyers, but when we start to actually see it have an impact in our lives, we can see that it's really powerful and essential.Adam Coelho:
Yeah. And when we have that awareness, of the benefit of, continuing to look, continuing to be with it. And you see like, oh wait, now I see this because I stuck with it. Now I see this, it opens the door to do it a little bit more in the future. Yeah. So before we jump into more of how like compassion can benefit us in our lives, I would love if you could just define compassion, right? Because maybe some people aren't familiar with the actual definition.Claire E:
Yeah. And Compassion has meanings in our everyday life, and I think a lot of times people think that it means a sense of kindness or being nice, and I think it's much more than that. And I would also differentiate it from empathy. and there's a lot of people that think, and you'll see now these. Empathy is the most important leadership skill. Empathy is what we need to change the world. And I actually think empathy can be great in some context, but I think there's some bad aspects to empathy. I think empathy happens when a lawyer listens to a client. and understands their pain and tries to come up with a solution. I think empathy also happens when a lawyer listens to another lawyer yelling at them and they yell back because they take that emotion on and then they have to send it back out into the world, and that does not help us. So I think that when we're talking about compassion, it's more the ability to be present with suffering and stay willing to. Okay. And so why that really matters is you're present with the suffering, but you're not taking it on. And there's actually some research that talks about how people who respond to suffering with empathy can be easily overwhelmed. And be ineffective as a result. But people who respond to suffering with compassion, they actually can be more effective. And part of the reason is that compassion. And one of the elements of compassion is mindfulness. So it has that awareness, but also that stability so that when you experience the suffering or see the suffering, it's not necessarily. you see it and you can more, more, with more awareness, evaluate what you can do to help, even if it is just to send kind wishes to someone. And when we talk about cultivating compassion, loving kindness is essential to that, I think for a lot of us, because one, it gets us comfortable with just the physical sensations in the body of what compassion even feels like. and it also helps us understand, We can cultivate that for people and experiences that we maybe don't really like because the practice starts with ourselves and with our loved ones, but it gradually moves out to people that are difficult for us and to the broader community at large. And I think it helps us understand that these feelings of being safe, healthy, happy, and at peace, they're essential for. but they're also essential and what everybody else in the world wants. And when you practice that, it more often comes out into your life. Yeah,Adam Coelho:
that's very interesting. and when I teach a course called Search Inside Yourself. It's an emotional intelligence course that teaches emotional intelligence and leadership through mindfulness, and we teach empathy and compassion in a section of that course. And one of the things that kind of I heard you talking about there is like in, in both of those scenarios, there needs to be a discernment, right? There needs to be a discernment of that's there's suffering. it's not my suffering. I can understand it, I can feel it, but If I go too far on empathy, I can allow it to take me over. and then you have things like empathetic burnout. And when you're in that state, you really can't help. And so compassion and I imagine you're aware of like the studies of, like Matthew Ricard and things like that where he's observing suffering and he can just be with it and wish, wish well for those people and he can still access his own. Agency and wisdom and wanting to help. And so I think there's needs to be that clear discernment and before we can actually take action to help. So I like, I, I really appreciate the definition that you, or the kind of this distinctions that you just shared. so in terms. this podcast is all about crafting a life you love and making work optional using mindfulness, envisioning and financial independence. I kind of put compassion in the bucket of mindfulness and I'm really curious on, as you think about crafting your own life or as you work with lawyers who have very stressful careers and lives. How do you counsel them to cultivate compassion and how does it help them actually craft a life that they love?Claire E:
So I think, there's a few things that go with this. so I, I think a big part of the stress situation for lawyers is actually, in a lot of cases, one of meaning. so when we, it is actually not true that stress people are less happy than others. so people who have stress in their lives tend to have more meaning in their lives. They get stressed because they care about what they're doing. I think though that a lot of lawyers tend to overemphasize the service of others, and end up as a practical matter, under emphasizing what they wanna do and, what they want in their life. And so I think like with lawyers, it's not Financial independence, it's more time independence. we have money in a lot of cases, not in every case. I we do struggle with that in some sectors of the legal profession, but a lot of times the issue is time where we, are incentivized to, spend more of our time at work and less incentivized to spend more of our time, and our efforts in our own lives. And I think that has been one of the, like keys for me is that. It's not just that I started meditating and I learned some tools for dealing with difficulty. I also started meditating and realized that I had something screaming inside of me that I wanted to do, which was right more. and so when I started to do that, I found, access to a different part of my personality. I hadn't really been able to, get in touch with, I found the ability to help people in a totally different way. and I started to understand my meaning and life and so when I did have to go deal with stress in my law practice or get ready for a trial or counsel, a client through a difficult situation. It didn't necessarily feel as, like Sisyphus rolling up a hill rolling ball, the stone up the hill, right? Because I think when you deal with that stuff every day, and that's your experience, and you don't feel like you're contributing to a greater good, it can feel pretty blink. but I think when you can get in touch with other forms of goodness and feel like you're contributing broader to a society and maybe even fixing some of the problems that you encounter in your practice, everything changes because everything is part of a bigger. Bigger goal of, of helping the world and actually healing in addition to fighting. and so for me, I think that meaning piece has been really important. And so when I talk to lawyers, I probably talk about writing and creativity. I don't know if it's as much as I talk about mindfulness, but it's really something that's essential. And I think. Figuring out what it is in your life that helps you tap into that meaning, and to that broader perspective is something that can really change things. And so it goes with mindfulness, and I think mindfulness is an entryway for many of us. because just seeing what's there in your life and in your head, I think can make a difference. But tapping into that meaning, and building something bigger than yourself is really essential.Adam Coelho:
Got it. So it sounds like the mindfulness practice helped you to see inside your own head and start to identify, oh, there's a yearning to contribute in a different way. There's a yearning to write more and to explore my ideas in this medium. Is that kind of what it did?Claire E:
Yeah. so when I talked earlier about the overthinking, I knew I was overthinking and I of knew it was like excessive and too much. What I didn't know is that I could do anything about it. like I didn't know that mindfulness would actually help with that. So when I started meditating, I started to not overthink so much, but it wasn't because I stopped thinking, what happened in part was. Stopped reacting to all my thoughts so much. I developed more wisdom about which thoughts I should engage with and which thoughts I should just let bounce around until they go away. And one thing that I started to notice when I sat was I would have thoughts that would of come back. I'm not a real visual person, so I don't usually see scenes in my mind. I'm, I feel, in my body and I get words a lot. So I would honestly get. Whole sentence is, I would feel my mind like constructing like even paragraphs, for what later I learned to turn into an article or a blog post and eventually book. and so that's actually, it's a really practical thing. I've spoken about it somewhat in spiritual and, metaphysical terms, but it was a really practical thing where I sat and I saw all these thoughts and I. Some of the, these aren't burdensome thoughts, these aren't terrible thoughts. These are ideas for writing. And when I started to do that, they didn't bother me so much and then I started to publish 'em and I, cultivated a community and, built relationships with people, and realized I was not so weird and it changed my life.Adam Coelho:
Very interesting. Yeah. it's not like the thoughts are gonna stop coming, but you can stop. Reigniting them, so to speak. I think that was the difference for me is like I would see a thought and then I would judge the thought, and then I would judge the judgment, and then it would just be like, it would just spin outta control. But like you said, you can just bring mindfulness and just see it and let it float on by. But you can also start to notice, like, those, for you it was the, inklings of a blog post or an article or something like that. And you can say, oh, I'm gonna, I'm gonna go with. I had to experience, one of my LinkedIn posts the other day, which is how we met, through LinkedIn. one of my LinkedIn posts the other day was just like, I was finishing up my meditation and this just thought came to me and I was like, that's it, that's this experience. and that was really about like, just this in breath and justice out breath. it's pretty cool to hear how that kind of came about. what role do you see self-compassion playing in this idea of crafting a life you love?Claire E:
I think it's essential, for crafting a life you love and just being a happy person. And I think most of us don't really learn it. I think. Parents probably try to help us learn it, but I don't know that anyone taught them, and so it's hard for us to necessarily pick it up. I think some of the problems with self-compassion maybe just happen because of the normal biases in our brain and how much we are wired to seek belonging. because we know in intuitively that it's key to our survival. but I think that it's really essential and it's been a game changer for me. I've talked about confidence, a fair amount, and it's a problem I think for a lot of professionals. I think a lot of, like even really talented people feel like they're not confident. but I think the secret ingredient for me is not like getting rid of fear or getting rid of doubt because I haven't done that. I've just been learned. I've learned to like, bring those things along with me and just not let 'em get in my way. And the real answer to that is that I know I will have my own back if things don't work. That's it. I think like if you can develop a trust relationship with yourself where you know you're gonna be kind to yourself no matter what happens, that's when you can actually be brave. That's where you can take risks. That's where you can, even have fun doing those things. and build really good connections with people, and learn to rely on your community when things are difficult. I think without self-compassion, it's not true that I don't think that you can't love other people or support other people without self-compassion, but I think without it, you are. much more at risk of getting into the zone of burnout and, totally sacrificing yourself for goals or serving other people. And so I think self-compassion is absolutely essential to building a health, healthy and happy life. And I would probably say like for many people, if you want to work on, changing your life in some way, I think starting from a kind. Is about the best thing you can do because once you get that trust relationship with yourself established, then there, there are so many more opportunities available to you. You don't have to worry about whether you're this kind of person or that kind of person, whether you're good at the thing. You can just try it and you can play and you will be amazed what happens when you start to do that.Adam Coelho:
Yeah. I want to dive into that a little bit more. You talked about a trust relationship with yourself and starting from a place of kindness, how would you practically counsel someone to practice self-compassion? How would you counsel them to like start to cultivate this ability to trust yourself, be kind to yourself, be compassionate with yourself to, how would they practically.Claire E:
I think there are a few things you can do. So one cognitive thing you can do is to read about self-compassion, understand what it means. So a lot of people cognitively believe that self-compassion is, giving themselves a pass or that it leads to low expectations. or low productivity or stuff like that. And the research tells a very different story. So I would really encourage you to look at Kristen Nest work, Chris Gerner's work, to explore that idea. If you have some of those hangups, a lot of us do, so don't judge yourself for it, but go look at what the research really says and that might change your mind. both of them have good books on this. There's also a course called Mindful Self-Compassion, which people can look into. But in terms of cultivating self-compassion, I think there's some really small things that we can do in our daily lives, and one is if you do have a meditation practice, when the teacher says, focus on the breath, when your mind wanders, bring it back to the breath. Where you build self-compassion is how you bring yourself back to the breath. I think one of the blessings I had was that I started meditating as a new mom. And when you're a new mom, you realize, wow, these babies don't know anything, do they like, They don't know how to smile at first. They like don't even know how to use their hands. they don't even know they have hands at first, like they don't know anything. And then you have to of teach them and guide them all along the way. And it feels like repetition and it can be exasperating at times, but you gotta do it like you love 'em because you do. And the truth is that's also us. So when you start meditating, your mind is like a baby. It doesn't know anything. It has no skills for dealing with thoughts. It's never been taught how to do stuff, and it just runs up to all the thoughts and wants to talk to 'em like a little toddler. So how are you gonna treat that mind? You're gonna treat it kindly because you want it to actually learn and grow and do better, not feel bad about itself. So I think like in a meditation practice. that bringing that just sense of kindness and how do you talk to yourself internally when your mind wanders and you bring it back. That's one thing I think you can do it in other areas of your life, like if you have any hobbies that you enjoy where, maybe it's a fitness practice or you have like little nitpicky hobbies like knitting or crocheting to mess something up. It's reminding yourself to be to treat yourself well and coach yourself as you go through that experience. And another thing that I use a lot and took me decades to learn is to just say, this is hard. When something was hard. And yeah, what I'm saying is when you experience a hard thing, you recognize it as a hard thing, right? And why that really matters, is that many of us like type A perfectionist, professional types. We want to look like things are easy for us. We want to look like things are effortless. but the reality that most successful people in life, are the ones that don't give. Not that the ones that are perfect, it's the ones who don't quit. And self-compassion is essential to that. So when I have noticed that I'm struggling with the situation, I just say, this is hard. And I either allow the situation to be difficult, I become aware of what is difficult, and I can pep give myself a pep talk. I can go ask for help. If it's about a case, maybe I'll call my client and discuss my concerns and we'll work out a strategy to address them. or I'll take a break and come back to it and develop a better strategy, with a clearer mind later. So those are some really basic things that people can start to do. They are hard to do. I'm not gonna say it's easy and you might feel some resistance at first, but when you do them over time, it'll become second nature and that mean voice in your head will get turned into more like a coach or a friend who helps you out when you're having difficulty.Adam Coelho:
Yeah, I love that. I really love those practical and simple examples, right? Like nothing earth shattering there, right? it's just a matter of remembering to do it. And as you do it more and more, you start to remember more often and getting back to what you were saying, like going and trying to achieve and to take risk and do things when you come from a place. Sufficiency enough and trust in yourself and your abilities, and your ability to, like you said, have your own back no matter what. Like, that's a whole different experience than doing something to prove somebody wrong or to impress somebody or to, achieve something. there's a lack in that approach. you're describing is from a place of enough, and I really, I've struggled with, trying to do things out of a place of lack or scarcity. And I'm really, one of the big explorations on this podcast is what is enough. And I, the reason I'm pursuing financial independence is to basically get the money situation sorted out. I can pursue risks and entrepreneurship from a place of enough insufficiency where I know that no matter what my family's gonna be, okay, there's gonna be food on the table, we're gonna have a roof over ahead. But that's a macro example. But this can be done in every pursuit that we have. So I really love how you've been talking about all of this.Claire E:
yeah, I think one of the things for me that. Really helped. The self-compassion piece is al also the writing. So because I'm an overthinker and I had to publish when I wrote something and I couldn't just hold it, I had to publish it and get it out. I think I started writing quicker than a lot of people who start writing and they journal and stuff for a while and then never share it. because sharing was a piece of what I. I was able to start sharing like stuff about things in my life that maybe I'm not a hundred percent proud of or maybe that I always felt like I wanted to hide. like my overthinking, like my experience with postpartum depression, like, my difficulty with anger at times or, I've also written about, having to do, doing dry January and, checking some of my habits around alcohol. And every single time I've written about those, I've worried like that. Maybe people will judge me or respond badly. But almo, I every single time people reach out and they say, thank you for writing that I was experiencing the same thing. and I've had the same struggles, and I think that's really true. So part of it is also getting out of my head and out of myself. some in realizing. These situations that we think are our experience and our struggle really aren't, they are a human struggle that other people experience as well, because we all have some of the same human ideas. And this is speaking to the common humanity element of compassion. But I do think like, The more that you can share with others your experience and your difficulties, the more you will understand that they have them too. And when you share them, it maybe doesn't take the problem away, but it makes 'em feel a whole lot different and it helps you understand that you're having these problems because you're a human. And so it takes some of that judgment piece away from it automatically. Yeah,Adam Coelho:
that's a great point. We often think that we're the only ones going through this. everyone is going through their own version of these things and I know that the Kristin Neff's approach to self-compassion and research, you know, backed approach to self-compassion really says like, remind yourself that you're a human being in, all human beings are suffering in some ways. So I really appreciate that. So let's shift gears now into what I call the mindful fire Final four. Sound good? Yep. All right, so the first question is about envisioning, which is really about using the predictive power of our brain to create the future that we want. And so I'd love to hear maybe a small example or a big example of how you wanted to make something happen in your life and you made it happen. maybe something that seemed, I don't know how this is gonna happen. One thing led to another and that thing that you dreamed of making happenClaire E:
actually. Yeah, so I think, like, I'll probably talk about my book because that was a big deal. so years ago I had thought about writing more and writing a book, but I really wasn't writing at all. I, I didn't necessarily know where it would go. and I wasn't sure what it would even be about, but I just wanted to do it. I've just always enjoyed writing. And so gradually I started talking to some friends about it who had written books and they told me their experience and things. and a lot of them told me like having kind of a following in a community made sense. And so I just of started writing. I blogged for a group called Ms. Jd, and I remember thinking, how will. A blog post a month. I was worried about that and now that seems silly. and that went really well. I started to build a community. and then I, finished that and I started to play around on LinkedIn. Nobody in my area was really doing that. Nobody at my firm, my former firm, knew what I was doing. they didn't really pay attention or care, I just started doing it. As it turns out, people liked what I wrote and I made a lot of connections. and then it led to me during the pandemic kind of having a voice and being known for talking about mindfulness and writing and things like that. and I ended up getting some teacher training. I founded the blog and I was writing a post a week. and then at the end of 2021, I realized I had 50 blog posts with about a thousand words each, and I realized, that's a book. so I, I realize if I can write 50,000 words in a year, I can write a book. And so I set a goal to get my book done by my 40th birthday, which is, next week. And I published my first book, last November. So I think some of the visioning process may be that a vision can motivate you and keep you going. It can be a dream, and that's okay. but you have to start taking some little. in furtherance of that to fill that out. So maybe it's a little bit more like the vision is the picture on the puzzle box when you get it. and then what you actually have to do is start putting those pieces together to get there. and it's scary and it's frustrating, but it is worth it. I love that. I'mAdam Coelho:
laughing here because. Have been doing puzzles this week at my house. So we did that. We like put the puzzle box up to say, Hey, that's what we're going for. And we started putting the pieces together. I really like that analogy. And from your story, like talking to people about wanting to write a book was a huge step. And when I talk to people and I teach my workshop on envisioning, at Google and outside of Google, I say, first have a vision, and then the most powerful thing you can do with that vision is talk about it. Because when you tell other people about it, number one, it makes it more clear for you. And number two, it makes other people aware of it. So when they encounter things aligned with your vision, they'll come and tell you and unbelievable things have happened in my. Just by doing that. And really love your story of going from, I wanna write a book to, Hey, I wrote 50,000 words. This is a book. I could do this again and let me do it. And by the way, happy 40th birthday next week. Thank you. All right. So the second question is, what piece of advice would you give to someone early on their path to financial independence?Claire E:
So this is like not my strong suit cuz I don't really do business law. I do more local government, and other kinds of work. But I will say that the thing that kind of I've always done well with, in my own life is just. Starting small and allowing that to grow. and I also will say that shame has been just a huge aspect in my life and mindfulness and rooting out some of that shame or dampening its impact has been huge. So I, I can tell you when it comes to financial things and issues of control, and I think financial independence speaks to both of those. it's gonna bring up some shame. And the reality is that shame can prevent us from looking at things clearly because shame is this instinct to hide something about ourselves. So it can prevent us from looking at things, it can prevent us from not acknowledging maybe some of the impact of our habits in our life. And it can prevent us from seeking out help and sometimes help can really get us to where we wanna get to much quicker. so I would probably just say, Be aware of the reality that small steps can over time aggregate and make a huge difference. But also just be aware of the potential impact of shame and be on guard against that. and the way that you address shame most effectively in my experience, is to talk to other people. It almost makes it disappear. So to the extent you can get some help, I really recommend.Adam Coelho:
very good. Thank you for sharing that. That's not come up before, but I think is a perfect application of mindfulness and compassion, in looking at our financial life. so the third question, Claire, is what piece of advice would you give to someone getting started with meditation and or mindfulness? I know we talked about that a lot, but if you had to boil it down to one thing, what would.Claire E:
Start small and just get started. Like you'll learn from the experience. You don't have to be perfect right away. Part of what you're doing is learning about yourself. So no teacher out there, no program, and not even my book can tell you what exactly works for you. The only way you can figure that out is trying it yourself. and so start small. Be kind to yourself. Notice what's going on. If you need to look for extra resources, do that. But just get started and start. FantasticAdam Coelho:
advice. And the last question, Claire, is how can people learn more about you? Connect with you online and find your bookClaire E:
So the blog is Brilliant Legal Mind. and that's brilliant legal mind.com, and that is on WordPress. We're on various social media platforms. our biggest following is LinkedIn because that is where I feel the most comfortable and probably do the best content. so find us there. I do weekly posts. We have some meditations as well, and other resources. all for free. You can also find me on LinkedIn at claire e Parsons. I love talking to people about mindfulness, and about all kinds of topics. so please reach out. and then the book is How to Be a Badass Lawyer, the Unexpected and Simple Guide to Less Stress. And greater personal development through mindfulness and compassion. it is on Amazon, bookshop in Barnes and Noble online. and you can also find a link to it on, the website. But what the book essentially is a four week guide to learning some basic mindfulness practices, which includes, breath meditation. Body scan, which I think often a lot of lawyers and professionals are, in need of and maybe not as familiar with. and then I have a section on Joy to introduce the concept of positive emotions and emotional intelligence. And then there is the final, part is about loving kindness practice. And so if you think about it, all those practices are combined in loving kindness, which is a very dynamic and transformative practice. And then the rest of the book is really talking. what mindfulness can do for you, how you don't have to be perfect, and how you can really bring these practices into your life. it is a book focused for lawyers because that has been my experience and that's where it's written from. But I have had a lot of friends and contacts who aren't lawyers who've read it and tell me that they think it's just as applicable to their life. So you don't have to be a lawyer to read it. you do not need a jd. I hope everyone can benefit.Adam Coelho:
Wonderful. I'll put a link to all of those things in the show notes so people can check those out. Claire, thank you so much for being here and sharing your wisdom with the audience. All right. Thank you for having me.