In the Buddhist tradition, altars get fed at every meal. At the nail place I go to, there’s a little altar near the door with a Buddha, a fountain, candles and a bowl of oranges.
Even if you don’t have a formal or informal altar in your physical world, you’ve got one in your mental world. It’s the place you go when you’re worried, stressed, unsure.
I’m not saying that it is a place that brings you peace or comfort, necessarily. In fact, I’d guess the opposite: Every visit to this interior altar drains you.
That’s because the foundation of most lawyers’ interior altars are two words, carved out of stone: NOT ENOUGH.
The Not-Enough Altar
On top of the Not-Enough Altar are the usual suspects. You’re don’t have enough:
- or just generally, you’re not good enough.
Most lawyers’ lists of how they’re not enough are pretty long, and this one above likely just scratches the surface. Maybe there are even things like creative, thoughtful, giving, and kind on top of your Not-Enough Altar.
Here’s the thing: Every time you visit that Not-Enough Altar, you give it your power. The Not-Enough Altar is not an altar that gives life, energy, and peace back to you when you visit. Far from it. It’s an altar of sacrifice. The kinds of sacrifice that rip your beating heart out while you are still breathing. And yet most of us go worship daily—hell, hourly—at that altar more often than we eat and visit the loo.
Of course, you could decide instead to take the path to the Altar of Enough. It’s the altar that renews and strengthens you, by reflecting back the power of what’s placed on it. And the funny thing is, you can put the exact same things on the Altar of Enough as on the Not-Enough Altar. Instead of flinging things on the Not-Enough Altar in a fit of frustration and anger, you can place “smart,” “successful” or “creative” on the Altar of Enough, with gratitude.
Make it a regular practice, and you’ll notice things like peace, joy and ideas for an alternative legal career sneaking into your life.
Starting Your Altar of Enough
Because your head can be a scary place when you’ve spent so much time worshipping at the Not-Enough Altar, start your new Altar of Enough worship in the physical world. If you have an altar or sacred space already, you could use that. If not, a really simple thing to do is get a small, pretty bowl or dish.
Write down all of your usual not-enoughs on individual scraps of paper. Neatness absolutely does NOT count. If you’re having trouble detecting what your not-enoughs are, list everything that is holding you back from pursuing an alternative legal career. Be brutally honest.
Keep the bowl near your desk. Every time you’re struggling with something—like an asshole partner, a wretchedly boring assignment, too much work and not enough sleep, hating your life in general—notice what your background thoughts are. Like, “I hate this. Why can’t I just focus on my work like everyone else?”
Take “focus” from your pile of not-enoughs, and place it in the dish. As you do this, think of one very small example of when you had focus. Like, “I had enough focus to get through law school,” or even, “I had enough focus to get up, get dressed and get to work today.”
Whispering your “enough” out loud can be very powerful, too. Try saying “I am focused enough” 3 times as you place “focus” in your bowl. Or, you could say it so loudly your office neighbors hear you. (Hey, they hear your curses, so why not something better?)
That’s it. A one-minute investment of time and thought. Even overworked lawyers can cope with one minute, right? I promise that a week of concerted worship at the Altar of Enough will change your perspective on what you can do with your work and your life.
So, which altar are you going to feed today?
Jennifer Alvey is a recovering lawyer who helps clients get in touch with their enoughs, and run with them. She offers discounted sample coaching sessions, and a discounted 3-week intensive introduction to coaching. Email Jennifer at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule your sample or Change in the Bones sessions today!