The Wisdom of Skepticism

From a mindfulness perspective, skepticism and critical thinking are essential, and frankly, faith is important, too, but it has its drawbacks.

When you begin a mindfulness practice, you’re taking a leap of faith. You’ve heard the claims: mindfulness calms and stabilizes the mind. It increases concentration, and helps shift cynicism to inquiry and judgment to discernment. Mindfulness increases emotional intelligence, which has all sorts of tertiary benefits. And it flat out makes you a happier person.

In my experience, the claims are 100% true. Over the years of practicing mindfulness, I’ve noticed a definite increase in wisdom and compassion. My mind is steadier and less distracted. I’m more content, I handle stress better, and I’m happier.

But mindfulness isn’t something to take on faith. It’s important to practice mindfulness, to verify whether the claims are true.

Interestingly, you can say the same thing about the law. When you practice law, you take a leap of faith – faith in the system, the other human beings in the system, even faith in yourself. But blind faith is no good here, either: it’s important to verify where the system works and doesn’t, the trustworthiness and reliability of your colleagues and clients, and your trust in yourself. A healthy dose of critical thinking about the system, other people, and even your own decisions, can be quite useful.

On the other hand, you can have too much skepticism and not enough faith. You can overthink, argue for totally reinventing the system, advocate for tossing the constitution as one young friend of mine recently did, and end up throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater.

Mindfulness merits a careful look, with an open, critical mind. Our legal system does, too. And these two qualities of mind work together: mindfulness practice will illuminate and help support some of the changes the legal system needs.

In the law as well as in mindfulness, faith + skepticism = wisdom.

Judi Cohen

Judi Cohen formed Warrior One and created Essential Mindfulness for Lawyers®, nationally recognized for its originality and excellence in integrating traditional mindfulness, groundbreaking neuroscience and the science and psychology of the legal mind. Judi has presented to a wide range of global, U.S. and local firms, in-house legal departments, bench and bar associations, legal conferences, and law schools. Read More