Meditation Meets the Bar Exam with Kim Nicol Podcast Episode (022)

by Dustin on

Meditation Meets the Bar Exam 

Today we are going to be talking to an individual who is not only a lawyer, but she is also an expert in meditation and she is going to come on today to tell you why you should meditate during the bar exams and how that is going to help you throughout your bar exam. You know meditation is finally coming to mainframe as being at level of science is being a great way to reduce stress, so she is going to kind of describe how to go through meditation, how to use it for your bar exam then stay tuned towards the end because she is actually going to do a short meditation with you on air while we do that so without further ado let us talk to Kim Nicol who is a lawyer and meditation expert.

We are here with Kim Nicol, Hi Kim how are you?

Hi Dustin I am good.

Dustin: You are a meditation practitioner and a lawyer so you kind of have a unique experience of both you know, what lawyers go through in terms of their day to day life and also how to help them through meditation and what not, so if you want to tell a little bit about your story about kind of how you got into this meditation in your story of law school and being a lawyer and handling the stress.

Kim: Yea I love to and you know as your listeners know being a law student is not the easiest thing in the world and being able to have that mental clarity and that focus and being able to not freak out and have a melt down when things get intense. It is a really useful skill to have and so kind of by default when I was in law school and handling the stress and challenge of taking on so many projects, one of the things that really helped me was having a Yoga practice. Having some kind of body movement practice because I notice that when I was either exercising or just like moving my body that tended to help kind of calm me down and make me just feel much, much better and it helped me to handle the stress.

Then when I became a lawyer and I actually learn pretty quickly, I started to observe the lawyers around me and I thought you know I think I could be really good at this job, but I actually think that it would not create in me the kind of personage and characteristics that I want for me and I was really struggling to find role models who looked happy and healthy and like thriving in their life who were also lawyers.

So I pivoted pretty quickly and I when to work in legal publishing for one of the big legal publishing companies here and I continued to do my Yoga practice and someone introduced me to the guy who became my meditation teacher and you know it is kind of funny because I have been very resistant about this idea of meditation, it seem kind of like this hippy thing that people who are not connected to reality used to do and it was not until I found who kind of broke it down for me in a way that made sense and I started to do these little tiny practices like a minute, two minutes, three minutes a day and I started to feel how it changed like my inner state, like my mindset, my energy, my mental clarity and then it was like, oh my gosh this stuff is amazing, it is like unlocking these super powers that I did not even realized I had and what happen for me and my journey is after a couple of years I do it really well in the publishing company and continue to have my own practice that I did just for me.

I had kind of like a reality mortality check when my aunt died of cancer and my little brother was hit by a car and he is okay, but it was just these moments of kind of clarity where you realize life is really short and how is it that I want to be living. That was what made me kind of find the courage and the desire to leave what had been familiar and kind of secure, this corporate study job and move more fully into this place of you know of  really wanting to share meditation and mindfulness practices with other. I really want other people to be able to know how to use this stuff in their own lives and lawyer and law students are really close to my heart because I understand and I have seen my friends, my cohort, my colleagues struggle to be a happy healthy human and a successful attorney at the same time.

Dustin: Awesome a very powerful story. What kind of specific stresses you were dealing with or you saw others deal with that meditation kind of helped you overcome that probably other bar exam students, lawyers, bar students were dealing with as well that helped?

Kim: The biggest things were either feeling overwhelmed like there were not enough hours in the day to do all of the things that have to get done and also especially with law you are always needing to learn new things. You finish law school and it is like I still know nothing (laugh) after 3 years. I have JD and I pass the bar grade and you are like I know nothing. There is so much to learn, there is always so much to learn and with being a lawyer there is a specific kind of anxiety because this idea of failure of getting it wrong of either losing a case or reading the case law wrong or misinterpreting a regulation or statute or drafting a contract in a way that creates more risk than you intended.

Like all of those potential things that can go wrong, all these potential failures they are all extremely public, like everything that you do as a lawyer is highly, highly scrutinized and people who tend to be drawn toward law school and become lawyers have a bit of this like perfectionist tendency and a desire to kind of control things to know exactly what the deal is and then to like work within that frame. So this ideas of public failure creates in the back of your mind this massive anxiety, did I read all the case law, do I have all resources, like did I cover every possible potential problem and so I think that being in that profession tends to bring with it specific kind of anxiety that a lot of other people cannot relate to because it is just a part of the work. You are trying to manage risk, you are in conflict very often and if it goes wrong it is like everybody knows and that is such a lot of pressure and it is a really uncomfortable feeling.

Dustin: Right and I know you help a lot of law students, lawyers and bar exam students and most of the people listening this will be taking the bar and I know there is a ton of stresses that they deal with especially with the overwhelm, the fear of failure and fear of putting in all this months and time in hard work and waiting a few more months and then not getting results that they maybe want, so there is that pressure as well. For someone who is kind of new to meditation and what not, what is it exactly? Can you help clarify and define what that is?

Kim: Yea, so I like to think of meditation like when someone says they meditate it is kind of like saying they exercise. There are a lot of different techniques and there are a lot of ways to do it so when some people say they do meditation they mean they go on a silent retreat for 10 days, for some people when they say meditation they mean oh I sit on the floor in lotus position for 45 minutes and I watch my breath. For me when I am explaining meditation to someone who is really new to it and is curious and they are not sure of what it all means, I basically says it is about bringing  your body into stillness and then just noticing whatever is arising within you.

This can be like as a practice, it might be sitting in a chair at your kitchen table or sitting in a chair like before you open your Barbri or your bar prep study books, before you dive in you take a moment to sort of close your eyes and just feel and notice whatever is going on on the inside of yourself. Your thoughts are going to be something, your emotions are going to be something, your physical sensations, you are going to feel something in your body. Meditation is really just a practice of slowing down to fully experience and notice what it is that is happening in this particular moment.

Dustin: We are going to do a meditation exercise for everyone in a few minutes later on in the interview here. I want to also emphasize the point that there is a lot of science right now finally coming out about how the beneficial effects of meditation in terms of reducing stress, providing clarity of thinking, reducing the overwhelm something that a lot of law students, lawyers and bar exam students will face.

We were talking earlier you said it is a good habit to develop a form of way to combat the stress because we are dealt with it as law students we all dealt with it as bar exam students and like you said it never goes away as a lawyer at the same time right?

Kim: Yea I mean once you get to law school and you celebrate for 5 minutes and then you are stressing about the bar exam. Then you study for the bar exam and you celebrate you know you finish that and then you wait and then you stress about whether you get your results whether you pass or not. Even if you pass you pass you celebrate for like 5 minutes and then all of a sudden you are like stressed again, because as you know like finding a job and you get a job and then you celebrate and then the job is stressful.

It is kind of like being stressed and having these different stressful situations becomes a part of how life goes especially for lawyer and so developing different strategies  and tools to help support you and handle that becomes really the key to long term success. You might know other attorneys who burn out or who just look really haggard (chuckle) and really old like old before their years, because stress has a very physical effect on your well being. It is correlated with so many different kinds of health problems, so finding different ways to handle it is really helpful and it is cool too because it is kind of like we have so many examples of professional athletes who meditate.

We have this big football players and NBA champions and Olympic athletes and it is because when you are able to work with own inner game, your own mindset, so that you are able to have your head in the best possible place to do the work that you know how to do without any interference from the inner anxiety, life becomes so much better and you are able to perform at a higher level because you are not kind of burning cycles in the space of being anxious and stressed and worried.

Life becomes much richer and much more vibrant and much more enjoyable and at the same time your physical health and like you said we have all the science now that is telling us in very measurable ways that meditation and mindfulness can really be amazing for your long term health.

Dustin: In fact Jaime Anderson I think she won the gold medal this last winter Olympic. She was saying how she was freaking out the night before her event and she did some Yoga and some meditation that really calmed her mind and she ended up getting the gold medal.

Kim: Yea

Dustin: With me too, I am always a huge fan of meditation. I started developing it in law school because of the stress and I definitely use it on the bar to help me pass the bar and I use it right now as an attorney as well.

Kim: Yea, and I have one tip and one like reframe that helped me so much when I was preparing for the bar and I want to share it with your listeners because that might help them too, but you know there are so many questions right and you sit down and you are like oh my gosh all of these questions, it is like over a hundred questions today like just today I have to answer a hundred questions.

When you look at that initially it can feel really overwhelming like how I am going to get through all of these in these in the short amount of time and I was talking to my brother who had been a long distant runner and he was training for a marathon and I said that is incredible I could never run a marathon, I could never run 26 miles and he says oh you do not have to run 26 miles to run a marathon you only have to run 1 mile 26 times and I know that when we study for the bar we often talked about how it is a marathon not a sprint, right you have to be in it for the long haul, and it occur to me that, that is also the same attitude when you are actually sitting down to take that test like you do not have to answer a hundred questions you just need to answer one question, the question that is in front of you and then you let it go and move to the next one.

That attitude was so trans-formative for me because suddenly I did not have to freak out; it was like oh I can answer one question like I know how to do that. One is manageable; it is just about doing it over and over again.

Dustin: Yeah I love that, that is very helpful for the bar because they get 12, 13 topics like oh I have to learn all these laws like no, you have to learn this one rule or take this essay right now and I know a lot of professional football athletes will say we are not trying to win the super bowl right now, we are just trying to go 15:05 they just focus on what is in front of them to move forward. That is great so can we do a meditation exercise?

Kim: Yea absolutely

Dustin: Let me just give the listeners a heads up because a lot of people like to listen while driving. This is not something you should listen to while driving correct, they should either pull over or pause or make sure they are not driving or operating any kind of machine right now when they are listening to this.

Kim: Yes, because I will invite you to close your eyes and that would be a very dangerous choice if you are operating a motor vehicle (chuckle) so yea, if you are driving pull over or just remember to come back and do this part later.

Dustin: Okay awesome so go ahead and take it away we are all yours.

Kim: Alright, so find a comfortable seat and if you are sitting in a chair go ahead and let your two feet be flat on the floor and find a way to sit so that your spine feel effortlessly light and lifting so that the internal structure of your spine is perfectly and gently aligned with within your own body and then allow your eyes to close and we close the eyes in order to take a break from all of this visual stimulation.

As your eyes are closed you might become more aware of all of the difference sounds in your outside environment. Notice all of the different sounds and allow your breathing to be effortless without needing to control it (breathing sound) and bring your attention inward and be really curious what does it feel like to breathe. In your physical body see if you can feel this gentle expansion through the low belly and the upper chest with each inhale, as you exhale feel that gentle release through your entire body as the breath releases you and notice that as you breathe you do not have to control it or make it different just enjoy how it feels. If you discover that your attention has drifted that is okay simply come back to noticing this physical sensation of the breath.

You are human and you are going to have thought and different emotions allow yourself to notice your thoughts and emotions in the same way that you noticed your breath they come and they go and right your only job is to very curious in your observation and very kind everything you observe (breathing) and when you are ready choose a breath and allow your eyes to slowly reopen (breathing) and you just meditated. (chuckle)

Dustin: That was awesome.

Kim: Hmmm

Dustin: I feel so calm right now.

Kim: Laughing

Dustin: So that was meditation I know a lot of people sometimes they do not really what it is and I think like you said they think it  maybe hippy or weird. That was just a basic calming relaxation exercise.

Kim: Yeah and you know what is cool is that it really becomes like unlocking a super power because you are breathing all the time anyways (chuckle) like you do not need to learn how to breathe and you do not even need to like the burden of practicing can be really, really light, but then the benefit can be huge because it can bring you back into this grounded relaxed restful place.

It can kind of turn down the volume and the anxiety and the worry and when that is kind of managed then you can meet any kind of challenge or situation from this place of grounded strength and confidence and then you just like get out of your own way and do what you know how to do. This becomes a tool and a skill that you carry with you all the time like always. It is amazing.

Dustin: Right it is an integral part of I think of bar prep and like you said it is a tool in your tool box you can use it anytime you want for free right before you go into your bar exam or at the end of the day whenever the heck you want to use it. It is all yours.

Kim: Yeah and you know you can get the same kind of benefit from just taking for example like 3 deep breaths and you can do that with your eyes open and you can do that right before you walk into that exam room. You can do it right before like the people you know say alright now go ahead and start and this is really useful because we also know from science that emotions are contagious and this means when you are surrounded by a crowd of really stressed out anxious people you can get kind of infected by their anxiety, which doesn’t help, right?

It is like you have your own to manage and really do not need anyone’s stuff to making you feel more anxious. So this is something that you can use as a tool to keep, it is like a buffer zone that even though the people around you are kind of in their own head space and they are anxious, you can still stay in this kind of like comfort zone of being relaxed of getting ready to do what you know you have been preparing to do and it just help so much.

Dustin: That is awesome. What are some general tips that you have for people when they go meditate like when should they do it, how often, how long, where?

Kim: My basic tip is start small because you want it to feel good and you want it to feel easy. Starting with 1 minute is great, sometimes if the minute feels not look enough like you want to unwind more maybe start with 3 or even 5, but initially I would not start with more than 5. You can set a timer, I use my smart phone and I will just set the timer for a minute anywhere from 1 minute to 5 minutes and then I will let my body become really quiet and sometimes I sit in a chair and sometimes I lay down if I am feeling really anxious I really want to kind of unwind to help me sleep, like if I know I need to get a really good night sleep then sometimes I will do this practice right before I go to bed.

Set your timer and then you find a place for your body to be either sitting or lying down closing your eyes is super helpful it is like it reduces the visual stimulation and then in that time span for whatever time you have given yourself to meditate you can just notice the physical sensations that are in your body. That is a great practice for meditation if that is kind of difficult for you like if you are kind of struggling with that instead focus on let me see if I can notice all the different sounds that are happening around me.

Once you start to bring your awareness just to labeling and noticing all of the sounds that creates a little bit of a resting place for your brain because it is giving your brain a job, but like your focus and attention is on this one specific place. It is good to know that your thought will be still kind of moving in the background that tends to be the case and that is not a problem it does not mean you are doing it wrong, it just means that that is just the current state of your mind right now. When you first start do it small, set a time, and choose to either listen to all the sounds around you or focus on the physical sensation of your breath.

You can practice in the morning to kind of set the tone before you dive into your studies and you can do it in the evening to help you unwind so you can really get a good night’s sleep. You can even find little moments in the day like I have a friend who teachers professional poker players to meditate and you know they got a lot got stress and high pressure situations too and he often tells them to go to the bathroom take 2 minutes to meditate and people will just see you in the bathroom but you are actually like tapping in you know to your super powers. The nice thing about when you practice small as you can find little places to tuck it in to your day and then feel how the effects support and help you.

Dustin: Should people also talk to themselves kind of like how you were guiding us through or just kind of just listen to the physical body sensations or the noises around them?

Kim: I would say experiment and find out what is most helpful for you. I tend to like having a guided meditation for me, but some people just want to feel the different sensations or just hear the different sounds. The real sort of core part of meditation is becoming observant, so however you happen to get there that is awesome, but it is really just about being observant, observe your emotions, observe your thoughts, observe the moment, and observe your physical sensations and breath.

Dustin: Fantastic. So for those people who liked it and want to learn something more about you, you also have a self study course, correct?

Kim: Yea I do it is called Five Mindful Minutes and it is all about how to learn on your own, it is like training wheels to develop your own five mindful minute’s meditation practice.

Dustin: What is involve in the course, is it an online course? Are there modules? How does it work?

Kim: So there are 7 different guided meditations and each one builds on the next and each one is about 5 minutes except the one at the end which is more like 13 minutes. So the idea is that every day you will listen to a different 5 minutes meditation and so it will guide you through the experience and then after you listen to the meditation, you take some notes of what happen for you and what you noticed and then after you go through the course you would have meditation for an entire week.

If you do it every day you will get like the practice of doing it for an entire week and then you can just repeat because you get to download the audio and find the meditations that work best for you and because it is kind of guiding you each step of the way, you do not have to think about what am I suppose to be doing now, you just get to feel along for the ride and then discover your own self discovery and insight. Once you get like the hang of it you will start applying this practice in your own life in ways that work for you.

Dustin: Sounds like the perfect supplements to bar prep studies.

Kim: Yeah I mean I like to think that it is the key to unlock your super powers and you certainly need every strength and advantage you can get (chuckle) when you are studying for the bar.

Dustin: As you can hear in the background there is an emergency going on over there, so your meditation would be very helpful for that. So I will put a forward link, I will post in on the blog also for those of you who are listening; it will be forward slash Kim K I M and that will send you over to her study course. How much is the course for people if they want to take it?

Kim: Well the thing is before I let people buy it, there is a little homework assignment you have to do first.

Dustin: What is the homework?

Kim: The homework is when you email me I will send you a free 5 minute meditation and you have to listen to it 5 different times and each time you listen to it you will to write down one word about your experience. If you complete that homework assignment then you will send me your 5 words and what you noticed about your experience and then and only then if you still want the course I will tell you about all that.

Because I want you to only have what works for you and the best way to find out is actually get a little practice in, because if you do not do the homework, if that is not like fun for you then the course is not going to work for you, it will not be right for you. So yeah, I have this little kind of assignment and if you want to take that you can just mail me or connect with me and that is how we get you started.

Dustin: That is awesome. She is taking care of all you guys making sure it is something you actually will like. Very good. I guess that is it. You have a great voice by the way, very calming and soothing for that meditation.

Kim: Thank you.

Dustin: So I will put a couple of links on the blog. You also got a certified California continued education teacher in meditation for lawyers, is that right?

Kim: I did and here is kind of the funny thing as I did continuing legal education course on sustainable success mindfulness for lawyers and the California bar actually revoked the approval for it. They decided that it did not meet their requirements for product, but the good news is that the company who produced it is so much in support of the program that they are now offering it for free and because they are offering it for free, law student and people who do not have bar numbers can also get that program free. It is a 1 hour presentation and I can totally hook up your listeners up with that if they want it.

Dustin: Yeah that would be awesome. I will put a link where they can download that as well.

Kim: Great.

Dustin: Thank you for coming on Kim and I am sure listeners loved it and hopefully they apply some of the techniques to help them relax and focus during the bar.

Kim: Yeah thanks for having me and it was a pleasure and you know the bar is a challenge, but it is one that everyone can make and hopefully you have gained a little bit of extra tools to help with that journey.

Kim: Absolutely thanks again.

Dustin: Alright you heard it here first that was Kim Nicol teaching you about meditation and the bar exam. You can get access to all the things Kim talked about in that episode by going to to get access to those links. Also head over to keys and get your free guide to 12 keys to bar exam success. It is a free pdf download.

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