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Episode 7: Lawyers, Judges and Mindfulness - Oh My! An Interview with Indira Sharma, Partner at Saul, Ewing, Arnstein and Lehr

These are interview show notes, which means they are more fun to listen to then read. But just in case you want to...

00:06 Alexa: Hey there! Alexa Z here, and today I am excited and honored to be speaking with Indira Sharma. Indira is a partner at the law firm, Saul, Ewing, Arnstein, and Lehr. They are everywhere, across the country, from Miami to Boston, to Minneapolis and lots of places in between, but she is coming to us from our favorite home state of Maryland, and her firm is in Baltimore.  Indira is also the past chair of the Young Lawyers Section of the Maryland State Bar Association.  I had the pleasure of working with Indira at a few Mindfulness for Law events, and I was just thrilled that she was as excited as I was to share a bit about her own story with us about meditation, mindfulness, life, and law.  And you know, good old technology helped us make this happen.  Indira is at her house working today, from home, and I am in my van doing my recording.  I don't know if you guys know about my van, I call it the Tator Mobile! I love this thing! So, if there are any hick-ups along the way, we are laid back. It's a great recording.  She was worried about some construction, and I am always concerned cause you never know what is going to happen, but I think you are going to enjoy it as much as we did.  So much is in this short, jam-packed interview.  I hope you enjoy it!

 01:53 Alexa: Hello there! Welcome to the Alexa Z Show! So excited, I've got Indira here! Indira, to start this remarkable interview, which I am happy about, can you first and foremost tell the listeners about yourself? Family, career, self, leisure, whatever you want us to know.

02:11 Indira: Hi, Alexa! I am so glad to be here today! So, I am an attorney, partner at a law firm, and I have been practicing law for 13 years.  I have three small children.  They are 9, 8, and 5.  I am married to a physician, and we have a very happy life together.

02:29 Alexa: Fantastic! Just hearing you in your happy way say, "I am a lawyer, my husband is a doctor, I've got these kids,  that makes me happy but a little stressed out."   So, I am glad we are talking about meditation today.  Which brings me to my next question, what was it that made you say, I need to learn more about meditation and mindfulness? What was it?

02:54 Indira: Well, I think it really became important for me as I was becoming a parent, which was about nine years ago.  That's when my journey started.  Life as an attorney is incredibly busy; being married to a physician is incredibly busy.  But as we were getting ready to have kids and started thinking about adding more people into our busy life, I realized that something needed to change.  We needed to de-stress and figure out how to take care of ourselves.  So, we started this journey together.  I am very fortunate that my husband has been part of this too.  We've been doing this together, actually.  We took our first meditation course with an organization called the Art of Living.  It took us several times in order to take the course and really get into a habit.  For me, it has been a journey to get to a daily practice.  It really has helped me as a parent, as a lawyer, as a wife, just every aspect of my life has been improved through this practice.

03:53 Alexa: That's fantastic! Every time you say something, I am like, oh… my listeners or my students always ask these questions, and you are just teeing it right up for me.  With that busy life and bringing it into your life, you know, based on those things, a lot of times in meditation, we come to it like, "yup I  got to make a better life, life is stressful, and it's going to get more stressful."  We almost start meditation as a pill, like "Give me a little bit of that." And I always say later on, because I did start as a pill for panic attacks, it finally becomes our vitamin.  So, when do you take your vitamin,  how long have you been meditating, and can you tell us a little bit about your daily schedule?  For all of us busy people, it's tough; it's tough to have a consistent practice. You said you've been practicing for years, what does your daily schedule look like?

 04:47 Indira: So finally, I was able to get it down to the daily schedule and a commitment to meditation every day, maybe about two and a half years ago.  Prior to that, I would go on retreats, and I would definitely have periods of time where I was in a good practice, but then I would fall off the path; I think about two and a half years ago, I decided that morning time was best for me.  And it had to be before the kids get up because once the kids get up, it's just over, there never anytime for yourself when the kids get up. So, I would get up early, and for me, it started at the same time that I started exercising, and it was just the perfect formula for starting my day.  I would do 30 minutes of exercise in my basement, and then I would do 30-40 minutes of meditation.  And then after that you know, we'd get ready for the day, and the kids would wake up. So that's been my practice, that's when it works out the best.  There are times when I am in trial or very busy with work or stressed out, and something is going on, and it doesn't happen in the morning, and I have to do it later at night, and it's not as great at night for me.  I think everyone has their own time of day that works for them, but for me, its morning. 

 06:00 Alexa: So, on your perfect day, would it be once a day or twice a day, and about how long do you meditate? 

 06:07 Indira: On my perfect day, it is the 30-40 minutes in the morning and then ideally, and it really just a wishful thing; I would like to do 20 more minutes in the evening.  That's kind of the practice that was recommended to me, but I've only been able to consistently do morning, to be honest. 

06:27 Alexa: Oh no, it's all good, no judgment when it comes to meditation. And as the listeners are probably thinking, whoa that's a lot of time.  So do not worry, we all know we start small, and we work towards what works for us.  And mornings are a great time because your brain waves are still in that kind of dreamy state.  It's the most natural time to get back into the brain waves of peace. And when you talked about exercise, I just got goosebumps because we know that exercise it the number one way to relieve stress, well actually sleep is the number one way to relieve stress, but exercise is right up there as one of the top ways.  And just this morning, on good old social media, I posted something about exercise and meditation.  Because exercise is fantastic for saying I am stressed, I have a body; I am awake, I want to get going, I need to relieve stress right now.  The stress in your body, right now, which is a beautiful thing to do exercise, or that's why you do yoga postures to ready yourself for meditation.  But it is really just working on the stress of right now.  Meditation works on all the buildup of stress.  So, if you have ten units of stress in your body and you go to sleep, and you're like alright, not a great night's sleep, it was okay, maybe you got rid of half of it.  Well, the rest is still inside of you.  So, meditation is that beautiful way to say I am not just going to get rid of the stress now, but I am going to work on past stresses, all the baggage of stress that keeps building up day to day.  So, when you say, I get up, I exercise, and I sit down to meditate, I just decided you are the perfect meditator, even though you never should say that that, you made me happy!  I love that! And thank you for sharing. So, let's see what else we've got today.  In your life, can you describe the benefits, not only personally but also in your law practice.  What are the benefits you attribute to your practice?

08:34 Indira: So definitely I noticed after a consistent practice that I would, I don't know how else to describe it, I would walk around feeling lighter, not as heavy about problems or craziness going around me.  You know there would be stressors around me, but I would feel like, okay, it's going to be fine, it's no big deal, I can get through it.  I had a lot more energy and a positive mindset.  So that was a huge benefit. In terms of my law practice, that is tremendously helpful because practicing law is very stressful. You're constantly listening to people, as a litigator especially, talk about their problems and their worries, and there's a lot of stress coming at you.  So, for me, meditation helps me stay peaceful and calm while I am receiving the stress from everyone else. I think it helps me to be a happy lawyer.  I think a lot of lawyers you meet tend to be really stressed out, and they don't even know if they like their job anymore.  And I think for me, it has helped me enjoy my work. 

 09:38 Alexa: Thank you. When you said it makes you enjoy your practice more, that really hit home for me. I am a recovering CPA and loved being a CPA and now I am the accountant for my own business, but still, I have to say if I would if I was as deep in my practice as I am now, way back, then I wonder if I would have been a better, more mindful leader.  I had a lot of young people working for me, I definitely would have served them better, and I probably would have found a lot more joy in my job. So, thank you for that. Okay, here comes the next one, ready?

 10:18 Indira: Absolutely!

 10:20 Alexa: If the Wicked Witch of the West took away your meditation practice, what would you miss most, or what effects of your meditation practice, do you think you would miss?

 10:32 Indira: I would miss that feeling of lightness that I mentioned earlier.  There have been times when I have fallen off the path, and there's been a spell of no meditation, and you can just feel the negativity building back inside of you.  So, I think that I would really miss that feeling of peace and calm that comes, even in the storm, as you know.  I have kids, three kids, they're running around all the time, but when you are meditating, you can always, you know, at least take a breath and get centered.  I think would really miss that feeling of being centered.

11:04 Alexa: If all of you have the pleasure of meeting Indira one day, the first thing you will notice, because you can't help it, she's just stunningly beautiful, she's incredibly put together, but she is also a woman on a mission, but she does it in a very peaceful way. And that is the first thing I thought of when I met her, and I think you can probably just hear it in her voice right now. So, thank you!

11:28 Indira: That’s so nice of you, thank you!

11:31 Alexa: So, for the grand finale! I always tell people, I don't care what anybody does for a living, I care about who you are. But it is fantastic that you have done some dabbling and helping the profession, so take as much time as you would like and tell us about mindfulness in law and the program, and we'll wrap up where people can maybe find out more about it. So, lawyers, judges, tell us all about it.

 11:55 Indira: So, I think mindfulness in law is somewhat of a new concept.  You know, different state bar associations are now exploring mindfulness practice and are bringing tools to lawyers and judges.  The Maryland State Bar Association recently had a Bench and Bar Wellness week, and Alexa did one of our programs on meditation, which was really great. So now we are introducing the bar association to this practice, and last year when I was chair of the Young Lawyers Section, my platform was lawyer wellness.  I did a lawyer wellness retreat, and again that's when I met Alexa, and she did a lot of the programming.  One of the ways you can learn about these programs is to check with your bar association, whether it's a local bar association or the Maryland State Bar Association and see what they are offering in terms of wellness. There are wellness committees that are forming now and that are active.  The other great resource for lawyers is the Maryland and DC Chapter of the Mindfulness in Law Society, you can get on your computer and google mindfulness in law society.  I was introduced to Mindfulness in Law Society, last year, through the retreat that I did.  They were a great partner in the lawyer wellness retreat.  They're very focused on sharing this knowledge with attorneys. 

 13:16 Alexa: I think the program is fantastic! And when it comes to programs like this, sometimes you're like, oh yeah, that's nice, check a box, we got the program, that is not the case with this Mindfulness in Law program.  They're active, and they are wonderful resources for people. So, in the show notes, I'll include some links for anybody who is interested, and if you are enjoying what you are hearing, please share it! Not only with attorneys or judges but share it with any profession. I will be sharing it with my CPA buddies and all of my corporate buddies because it really, you need to hear it from somebody who walks it and talks it, and that is Indira Sharma. Indira, I can't thank you enough for joining us today.  This was fantastic! And we got through all the technological garbage, and hopefully, it will come out sounding great.  And I hope you join me again and again.  I really appreciate it.  Is there anything else you would like to sign off and tell anybody or give anybody encouragement?

 14:17 Indira:  I think lawyers are skeptical, and they feel that they can't start this because they are so busy. But I can tell you that if you take the time for this in the morning or in the night, whatever works for you, you are going to be so much more efficient with your time and you're going to actually find hours in the day.  So, if you're looking for more hours in the day and looking for ways to be more efficient, I really think that is one of the really great benefits of developing a practice.  Thank you, Alexa! It's been really fun!

 14:46 Alexa: Oh, you're welcome. And I want to add one more thing! I had the joy of briefly meeting her kids and outside of being a mindful attorney, being a mindful parent is so important and on a couple shows from now, we'll be getting into mindfulness and parenting. Maybe we'll have to bring her back and she can talk about that too. Thanks again, Indira! Signing off with Indira, hold tight we have a few more things to go over, and thank you again!

15:16 Alexa: I hope you enjoyed that as much as I did. Indira is a great woman.  Here's a little bit more about the program she spoke about at the end of the interview.  Jennifer Dill, who is also a great woman, and great Maryland attorney, is the co-chair of the Maryland, DC Chapter of Mindfulness in Law Society. The society is a dynamic group of lawyers, DC, Maryland, Virginia.  They come together, they learn about and practice meditation and mindfulness, all kinds of techniques.  This program is a great support both physically and emotionally for the whole profession.  One other thing you might want to check out is the Warrior One Program, which is another excellent organization dedicated to offering mindfulness in law training.  And of course, I must plug myself, I try not to, but hey, it is my show, and as a fellow recovering stressed out professional, I am always here to help anyone in need of finding their way through life stresses and I can be found at Until next week my friends go forth and make this world a better place, one peaceful mind at a time. It doesn't take long.




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