Category Archives: yoga

Desk job? – heck no!

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As the title of my blog suggests, I am a lawyer by profession, and a solo practitioner. I am thankful for being a solo practitioner because I do not have a typical desk job. Usually I spend my days traveling from courthouse to courthouse within the northern Chicago suburbs (I should say extreme northern – Skokie up to the Wisconsin border). If you have ever seen the movie “the Lincoln lawyer,” that is basically my job, without the driver or the huge brief cases full of $100 bills. This has given me time to practice yoga, run weekly miles toward my marathon training, as well as meditate as necessary.
This week, although technically 3 days, has been all paper and desk work for me. No yoga, running or meditation and the truth is, most people don’t want to be around me right now, because I am the moody shark no one wants to talk to. As a lawyer I have to put in the time, and of course I do, because my clients depend on me. I also do have to put some time aside to get on the mat or run five or six miles a day. It’s one hour, it shouldn’t be a huge deal. Why am I saying this? Because the difference is clear. When I run and/or practice yoga at least once a day, not only am I more productive, I am friendlier, and can better deal with the stress involved in my profession. That leads to everyone being happier an more satisfied.
Things work the way they do for a reason. During law school I interned for a large corporation’s legal department. This was all paper work all day long. My peers are required to bill 60 to 80 hours per week, remember not every hour worked is necessarily a billable hour. Yes, they may be raking in the huge bucks, but when do they have the time to enjoy them? I have had too many close calls to know that life is really way to short to waste it that way. Go ahead, call me crazy, if I have time to write a blog, practice yoga, have a family, spend time playing with my kids, train for and run 3-4 marathons a year why can’t I cut all those things and work at a large law firm? I could, but you wouldn’t be reading about it, and my kids wouldn’t see me, if they would, they would have a miserable pissed off daddy. (I would probably still be 40 pounds overweight, smoking cigarettes, eating fast food – been there – NOT GOING BACK)
That is why I could not have a typical desk job. Yes, I do spend hours at my desk, it is the nature of my profession. But as a solo practitioner, I am able to do the things I enjoy every day. When I am in a hurry and can’t have breakfast, I will put a Beat, a stalk of broccoli, some kale an apple and a cucumber though my juicer, put it in a bottle and drink it on my way to court – it is really very yummy! That is fast food I can drink and feel good about.
These are the reasons why I could not have a typical desk Job. Don’t be surprised if I add certified yoga instructor to my curriculum one day. For now, I am just a practitioner. Tomorrow I will go for a run, and you may then find the friendlier, nicer Bernie again.
Health, peace, love and good running!

Bernie

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Christmas and A Jewish Yogi!

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Wow, that is a strange title, but I think it is appropriate for this time of year. Being 100% Jewish and raising my family Jewish does not mean that I cannot enjoy and cherish the spirit of Christmas. We usually spend Christmas Eve with a really good family friend who is like family, in fact she has been key in raising my children as she takes care of them when I am out working. Not only do we participate in the holiday, we are tolerant and respect all rituals no mater how religious they are. On the flip side my friend attends each and every Passover Seder and participates in that. So I pose the question, what is wrong with tolerance, understanding and respect?
The second of Pantajali’s yoga sutras is Niyama (The five “observances”): Shaucha(purity), Santosha(contentment), Tapas (austerity), Svadhyaya (study of the Vedic scriptures to know about God and the soul), and Ishvara-Pranidhana (surrender to God). Applying the principles of purity, contentment, austerity, and the understanding of a god or in my view source of energy to a Jewish yogi runner during Christmas is not that far out of whack.
Just think how much better and peaceful the world would be if people were more tolerant of each other and were to accept or even participate in others’ customs or beliefs and traditions. I have noticed a lot this holiday season regarding simple tolerance issues. While walking at the mall yesterday, I overheard a mom telling her son that “we need to look away because we don’t believe in Santa – and that is not part of who we are.” Upon having heard that, I sat down with my daughter at Macy’s and wrote a letter to Santa. I explained to her that while this is not part of our personal tradition, for every letter placed in the box Macy’s makes a donation to the make a wish foundation. If anyone thinks that what I did was wrong, let me know. My daughter in writing to Santa donated money to a child in need, an act of tzedakah or charity. This not only falls under Niyama, it is one of the 613 mitzvot, or commandments (deeds) that Jewish people must do. Saying that tolerance leads to purity, contentment, austerity, and surrender to an energy that powers us is why I participate in Christmas celebrations. Not because I personally believe in principles of Christianity but because respecting and cherishing those who do, makes for a better and more peaceful world.
I remember growing up, in Ecuador, that two ladies who were live in Nannies, Catholic and having no exposure to any other tradition, would light candles every Friday night. Their only explanation was that their mothers and grandmothers always lit two candles on Friday night. Lighting candles on Friday night is a Jewish tradition that initiates the sabbath. It became apparent that these ladies were descendants of Jews from Spain who were practicing Judaism in hiding to avoid the consequences of the inquisition. If people were more tolerant of each other’s traditions, the inquisition and people having to hide acts of spirituality would not need to happen.
My friend called me today to ask if it would be offensive if a person dressed as Santa would come to her Christmas Eve gathering. While I laughed and said, of course it is not offensive,and at first pondering why it would even occur to her that I could be offended, it occurred to me that that, sadly, santa would be offensive to some. Come on people, we are all human – whether we believe in the new testament, only the Old Testament, the yoga sutras, Bhudda, Mohamed, Nefertiti or whomever, we are all powered by the same source of energy. When we all start respecting each other and become tolerant of one an other the world will become a better place.
So as a Jew, a yogi, and a Human, Christmas is one more opportunity to share other’s spirituality and connect with friends on a deeper and more meaningful level. Merry Christmas from a Jewish lawyer who practices yoga, runs marathons and respects fellow humans!

Live, laugh, love

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How many times have you heard or seen the quote “Live, laugh, Love” and shrugged it as being dumb or cliche? For some reason, this quote has always inspired me and I wish more people lived according to it. Yesterday I relocated my law office to another part of town. I actually returned to the office where I began and had been for a period of four years. I had this fancy office on a major intersection that was simply not working out. Yes, I was visible, but that never brought me clients. One may ask, what does this have to do with that quote? My answer a lot. Returning to a smaller but nicer office has put things into perspective. You don’t need extravagance to feel happy in life. In fact, other than health, a human being needs to live, laugh and love in Order to be happy.
After putting my office together today, I sat behind my desk and a actually felt happy. A happiness and freedom that I have not felt for two and a half years. Yes, I admit it, I was miserable at my last office because I would sit and listen to the sounds of traffic, ambulances, trucks, the hustle and bustle of modern life. All this noise, smell of pollution while waiting for clients that did not come. I realized that as a lawyer, when I do good work for my clients they refer my name, and I get other clients That will find me wherever I am. That is the way it has been and will be. My clients know I am there for them and that I not only look out for their legal interests, I make sure they’re ok in life – that brings me other clients, not a fancy office.
So everything was up including my posters from the 2011 and 2012 Chicago marathons, my diplomas, books, desks and so on. But I looked at the wall in front of my desk and realized there was nothing there at all. Still feeling great from being in my comfort zone, the first thing that came to mind was if I live, laugh and love, I think I will be ok. More on the wall to follow, but first, where does this famous quote come from?
“He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much;
Who has enjoyed the trust of pure women, the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children;
Who has filled his niche and accomplished his task;
Who has never lacked appreciation of Earth’s beauty or failed to express it;
Who has left the world better than he found it,
Whether an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul;
Who has always looked for the best in others and given them the best he had;
Whose life was an inspiration;
Whose memory a benediction.”
Elisabeth-Anne “Bessie” Anderson Stanley (born before 1900) is the author of the poem Success (What is success? or What Constitutes Success?), which is often incorrectly misattributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson or Robert Louis Stevenson.
So, this poem is on point as one who lived well, laughed often, and loved much will achieve success. Yes, I want to be successful, and being in my office today made me realize this is the path to success. Being in a huge office, simply because you are seen by many, who do not need what you have to offer is not a path to success.
As I looked at the empty wall I thought, can I put something there? The question was immediately answered, of course I can, I am my own boss, I am free, i am now happy. So I placed a candle holder, a candle, and decals containing the following words:
Live
Laugh
Love
Now every time I wonder or stare, I will see those remarkable words! These are really words we should all live by!
Thank you to all who read this – you share in my happiness, laughter and love for the world!

Triumph of Light over Darkness

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In honor of the winter solstice, I participated in 108 sun salutations tonight. This event was hosted by Santosha yoga in Libertyville And was a very successful event.
One of my teachers called this the marathon of yoga. Although I was sweating by the end, and it felt like a great workout, I did not feel spent quite the way i do at the end of a marathon. Of course the sense of accomplishment after a marathon is beyond words. The feeling that I get at the end of each and everyone of my marathons Is a feeling of ecstasy and Emotional fulfillment. Many people ask why I run, and really that is the reason.
Two and a half hours of practicing yoga Although I’m not being quite a marathon, Is still a great workout Physically and emotionally.
So you May ask, why 108 eight sun salutations? The answer is that there are 108 beads on a Mala. A Japa mala or mala (Sanskrit:माला; mālā), meaning garland is a set of beads commonly used by Hindus and Buddhists, usually made from 108 beads. Malas are used for keeping count while reciting, chanting, or mentally repeating a mantra or the name or names of a deity. This practice is known in Sanskrit as japa. The number 108 is considered sacred in many Eastern religions and traditions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism and connected yoga and dharma based practices. The individual numbers 1, 0, and 8 represent one thing, nothing, and everything (infinity). 108 represents the ultimate reality of the universe as being (seemingly paradoxically) simultaneously one, emptiness, and infinite. Source
So, having participated in this practice I felt energized and ready for celebrating the victory of light over darkness – set to take place on the solstice. Please look to reading about the meditations that can be practiced on and for the solstice.
I am so glad to have discovered yoga! It really is a life changing practice.

A Yogic Yom Kippur

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I know that this is untimely however, for the first time I want to talk about my experience this Yom Kippur and how I incorporated Yoga to make it an absolutely incredible experience. I just read a post on Elephant Journal by Zack Lodmer titled Yoga and Judaism, and it reminded me of my experience.
Yom Kippur is known as the Jewish day of repentance and also as the day of judgment. It is in fact known as the holiest day of the Jewish year. For me it is more than that, it is a day of reflection and a day of meditation. I did just that, I incorporated a practice of yoga into my day including asana, pranayama and meditation. During prayer, I reflected on things that I needed to do in the days ahead as well as on how to make my life more spiritual. Some of the things that I thought and that have incorporated is spending quality time with my children and incorporate my culture into their lives to prevent it from getting lost.
The Yom Kippur service goes on from 9:00 AM until 7:30 PM with about a one hour break around 3:00 PM. This does not include the service of Kol Nidre, which takes place on the eve of the holiday, I will hold discussing Kol Nidre for another post.
At the break, I walked to nearby Lake Karina in Gurnee, IL. I walked around the lake and took deep breaths along the one mile walk. I then walked to the shore and practiced a round of sun salutations. Then I sat in a meditative pose and meditated for an hour. My meditation incorporated the sound of the small waves smashing on the shore and used that energy to reflect on my life as a father, lawyer, runner and such.
By the time this day was over, I was in such bliss that it was difficult to return to a normal pace the next day. Many people will not say this about a holiday that requires a full day of fasting, but this Yom Kippur probably was one of the best days of 2012 for me.
I hope to do a similar meditation prior to 2013 to wash away the negative feelings that this year has brought for me personally. If there is anything positive about 2012 for me it was starting a regular yoga practice.
Yoga has changed my life, if you have not tried yoga, I would suggest going to a class. I look forward to continuing my practice as well as running. As I train for the Miami marathon in January, I am convinced that Yoga will help, especially in the cold and dark days of winter.

Criminal Law and Morality – a yogic analysis

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This post deals with my experience as a criminal defense attorney and an avid yoga practitioner. At one of my yoga classes, I had the privilege of being the only student at the class. So the teacher and I started what turned into a philosophical conversation about whether stealing in extreme circumstances is moral or not. The conversation started when she went to make sure her car was locked due to a recent burglary. I spoke about my role as a defense attorney representing someone accused of burglary and then we were discussing the moral question of epic proportions “is it ok to steal something if the only purpose of doing so was survival?” In other words “if you were starving, would it be ok to steal in order to survive?”

I am sure if we took a poll, something that I have not done, but may do on Facebook to see where people stand, most would say that stealing is morally ok in those extreme cases. But the system in the United States, or at least in the county where I practice, would still prosecute such people to the fullest extent of the law. Having represented cases where the defendant stole food to feed their children, I know first hand that the law made no exception for them. I am not saying that the law should make an exception, but is is moral to prosecute these people to the fullest extent? That is why I am not a judge.

Looking at Pantajali’s yoga sutra 2.9, energy in any human being results in the ultimate desire to stay alive at all cost.

“2.9 Flowing by its own energy, established even in the wise and in the foolish, is the unending desire for life.” Patañjali & Bon Giovanni. “Yoga Sutras.” Sethu Rathinam, 2012.

This reminds me of one of the most intriguing yet disturbing cases I studied my first year of law school. That is the case of The queen v. Dudley and Stephens, 14 Queens Bench Division 273 (1884). This being a case decided by an English court in 1884 clearly dealt with the question of morality before the law. In summary, Dudley and Stephens, the defendants in the case, were cast away in a life boat along with a boy about 17 or 18 years old. They had no food or water on the boat and decided that the only way to survive would be to kill and eat one of themselves. The defendants discussed casting lots but in the end decided to kill the young boy, who was weak and probably would have died anyways, and eat him in order to survive. The court ruled as follows: ” A man who, in order to escape death from hunger, kills another for the purpose of eating his flesh, is guilty of murder; although at the time of the act he is in such circumstances that he believes and has reasonable ground for believing that it affords the only chance of preserving his life.” Id. The advocates for both sides made compelling arguments including necessity (it cannot be murder because it was necessary for their survival), self defense, and many other theories. Having been found guilty of murder, a death sentence for Dudley and Stephens was ordered. The crown however commuted the sentence to six months of imprisonment.
So yes, Dudley and Stephens were found guilty of murder, after long debates about morality and questioning whether what they did was right. Of course the court determined that what they did was wrong, but what is really important to consider here is the final outcome of the case. The fact that the sentence was commuted from a death sentence to six months imprisonment. If this does not excuse the fact that the crime was committed out of necessity than I do not know what does.

Applying theses principles to the person who steals to feed his children, I have yet to have a prosecutor tell me: “ok, what they did was wrong, but given that it was A crime of be necessity for survival, lets commute the sentence to something appropriate.” This still condemns and punishes the person for the illegal activity but takes into account that the alternative to committing the crime would result in a worse outcome for more people.

While practicing yoga, an intention for one’s practice could be Pantajali’s yoga sutra 2.9 ” Flowing by its own energy, established even in the wise and in the foolish, is the unending desire for life.” One should ponder that life in this form is not eternal and making the best experience for ourselves is key. Not by being immoral and being out in situations where we have to question our own morality, but being able to understand why others act the way they do. Being able to forgive is moral, being able to put our judgment of others to the side and helping others overcome difficult moments makes us moral.

This is a tough lesson to swallow, but thank you for reading, peace, health and blessings for a moral future!