All is as Thinking Makes It Sodellemoms dellemomsMT | Tuesday, November 15th, 2011 | No Comments »
By Stephanie Haladner
Last month, Women in Law hosted a balanced living event at Aesop in Mayfair. A few nights before, I found myself searching for something to say to our guests. Since Aesop values intellectual curiosity and a regular dose of good books as a key component of balanced living, I decided to merge my own thoughts on balanced living with those contained in a very good book that happened to be on my bookshelf: Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius. What follows is the result of that merging…
‘I promised to give you some tips on balanced living tonight.
When preparing, I had to ask myself the question: ‘What is balanced living?’ What does this word balance that we hear so often really mean? The more I thought about it, the more I realised the answer is not so obvious.
For me, three thoughts about balance immediately sprung to mind, none of which I’m going to talk about in detail tonight.
- Work-life balance. Is it possible for women in law? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe we should be striving for something more like work-life harmony?
- Inner balance. The idea that within each of us are opposite parts or energies that we need to balance or integrate to contact our true power. For example, we are all rational and intuitive, powerful and vulnerable, masculine and feminine…
- Something my mother, who is extremely grounded with a keen intellect, has said to me throughout her life. That she is balanced because…she is a Libra.
The question I do want to pose about balance is: for those of us who are not Libras (Librans?), how can we maintain our balance in this mad modern world where there is too much information, too much choice, blackberry blackouts, and double-dip recessions… What can we do to stay balanced?
To answer this question, I decided to consult a source far greater than myself (always a good idea).
As Aesop values intellectual curiosity and a regular dose of good books as a key component of balanced living, I headed straight to my book shelf.
And this book popped off the shelf into my hands.
I picked this up at the Port Eliot literary festival a couple of years ago for free. It is Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. Yes, we are bringing a Roman Emperor and Stoic philosopher to the party tonight.
These meditations are Marcus’ reflections on how he could preserve his balance in the midst of conflict – barbarian invasions, famine, natural disasters.
The one tool that he relied on to maintain his balance was his MIND.
He said ‘all is as thinking makes it so.’ By raising his awareness to his own thoughts and to the present moment, he was able to keep it together.
So tonight I encourage you to raise your awareness to your own thoughts – think about your thoughts – yes, think about thinking…
Ask yourself: are my thoughts helping me or harming me? Are they keeping me balanced or throwing me off kilter?
Now I will read three passages from Meditations – all are timeless and transcend gender – relevant to women in law.
The first is on stress management:
‘Remember this retreat into your own little territory within yourself. Above all, no agonies, no tensions. Be your own master, and look at things as a man, as a human being, as a citizen, as a mortal creature. And here are two of the most immediately useful thoughts you will dip into. First, that things cannot touch the mind: they are external and inert; anxieties can only come from your internal judgment. Second, that all these things you see will change almost as you look at them and then will be no more. Constantly bring to mind all that you yourself have already seen changed. The universe is change: life is judgment.’
Marcus is reminding us:
- While we may not always be able to control our external circumstances, we can control our reaction to those circumstances. Limit destructive emotions.
- This too shall pass. Bear in mind when life throws you challenges and hardships.
Passage 2 is on time management:
‘If you want to be happy…do little. May it not be better to do what is necessary, what the reason of a naturally social being demands, and the way reason demands it done? This brings the happiness both of right action and of little action. Most of what we say and do is unnecessary. Remove the superfluity and you will have more time and less bother. So in every case on should prompt oneself: is this or is this not something necessary? And the removal of the unnecessary should apply not only to actions but to thoughts also: then no redundant actions either will follow.’
This wisdom is particularly relevant for women – often we are so conscientious we try to do it all. Remember less can be more – doing less may serve you and advance your career. Set boundaries.
Passage 3 is on teamwork:
‘Is my mind sufficient for this task, or is it not? If it is, I use it for the task as an instrument given me by the nature of the whole. If it is not, I either cede the work to someone better to accomplish it, or do it as best I can, calling in aid someone who, in cooperation with my own directing mind, can achieve what is at this particular time the need and benefit of the community. Whatever I do, either by myself or with another, should have this sole focus – the common benefit and harmony’.
Marcus not only reminds us of the power of delegation, but more importantly about the value of collaboration to create positive outcomes for you, your team, your firm. Women tend to value relationships and cooperation – if you’re one of those women, don’t be afraid to bring that part of yourself to work.