Multimedia: Spring 2014 Speaker Events at the Mindfulness Initiative

Emiliana Simon-Thomas, Ph. D, Science Director of the Greater Good Science Center presented "The Lawyer's Brain on Meditation: Insights from Neuroscience" on March 17, 2014 at Berkeley Law. She discussed the effects of meditation on the brain, and how the practice can rewire the brain to improve the wellness, resilience, and effectiveness of lawyers. She also presented results of pilot studies demonstrating these effects among Berkeley Law students who participated in mindfulness-in-law courses.

On March 10, 2014 meditation teacher Will Kabat-Zinn led a meditation session and discussion at Berkeley Law of how mindfulness can help lawyers stay grounded, connected to their values, and present for both the joys and sorrows of life and work.

Mindfulness Initiative News, February 2014

Mindful Mondays

Meditation teacher Shivani Ray has been leading a series of sessions on mindfulness techniques for law students and law professionals, as part of our Mindful Mondays gatherings. She has discussed topics including working with the breath, learning to quiet the mind, and how to handle difficult emotions in meditation (and in our lives). To listen to the recordings, please visit our Media page.

Speaker Events - Spring 2014

We are excited to announce two speaker events for the spring.

On March 10, meditation teacher Will Kabat-Zinn (at left), a regular instructor at Spirit Rock Meditation Center, will visit the law school to talk about finding ease and flow in the relentless, fast-paced world of law study and practice. 1-2 pm on Monday, March 10 in the Warren Room. Your RSVP is appreciated at

On March 17, neuroscientist Emiliana Simon-Thomas (far left) of the Greater Good Science Center will discuss the effects of meditation on the brain, and how the practice can rewire the brain to improve the wellness, resilience, and effectiveness of lawyers. 1-2 pm on Monday, March 17 in the Warren Room. Your RSVP is appreciated at

Mindfulness Initiative News, December 2013

Today we are excited to publish our first ever annual report, summarizing the progress that we've made in our first two years of operation, and laying out our goals for the year ahead. You are invited to download the report here.

We are particularly proud of the mindfulness community we have developed here at Berkeley Law, which includes students who chose the law school in part because of our program. The students in this growing community drive demand for courses, retreats, speaker events and other programming, and will help spread mindfulness in the legal profession as they launch their own careers. We are also thrilled to have helped build a community of legal educators, through our Workshop on Mindfulness in Legal Education, who are catalyzing a national movement for mindfulness in law.

We are deeply grateful to the Berkeley Law administration for its support, and to all of the students, faculty, staff, alumni and practicing lawyers who make our work possible. We look forward to bringing the benefits of mindfulness practice to more law students and professionals in the years ahead.

Mindfulness Initiative News, November 2013

On November 4, Professor Angela Harris (UC Davis) and Tirien Steinbach ('99), Executive Director of the East Bay Community Law Center, gave a lunchtime presentation on the importance--and challenges--of mindfulness practice in social justice work.

See video here:

Harris highlighted the apparent tensions between mindfulness and activism, in particular the mindful attitude to "accept things as they are" on the one hand, and the activist's desire to make change. As she and Steinbach explored in a riveting dialogue, a closer look at these apparent tensions reveals that mindfulness offers a crucial balancing force to the outward, striving attitude of the activist, and provides a source of strength to sustain the activist in the long run.

Mindfulness Initiative News, October 2013

On Monday, October 14, we are excited to present "Mindfulness-based Programming at San Quentin: Turning Violence and Suffering Into Gateways for Learning and Healing," a talk by Jacques Verduin, Dominick Withaker, and Alton McSween.

The three men will speak about transformational, mindfulness-based programs that began more than 15 years ago at San Quentin and whose success has led them to be adopted by several other California prisons. Verduin is the director of Insight-Out, and founder of Insight Prison Project, the organizations that have pioneered these programs. Withaker and McSween have practiced mindfulness at San Quentin and are now Peacekeepers who promote non-violence in their communities. This is sure to be a powerful and moving talk. Click here to view a recent PBS clip featuring Insight Out's work at San Quentin.

(Above left, two men embrace at the graduation ceremony for Insight-Out's year-long, Guiding Rage Into Power program at San Quentin)

When: 12:45-2 pm in Boalt Hall, Room 110

Co-sponsored by the Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice, Berkeley Journal of Criminal Law, Restorative Justice Center and Human Rights of the Incarcerated Coalition.

Refreshments will be served. 

Participants at a prior Spirit Rock Lawyer's Retreat
Charlie Halpern leads participants in qi gong at a past Spirit Rock Lawyer's Retreat.

Mindfulness Initiative News, September 2013

Registration is now open for two Mindfulness Initiative-sponsored retreats. From Oct. 30-Nov. 3 the Mindfulness Initiative is organizing a Lawyer's Retreat at Spirit Rock Meditation Center. This event has applied for 5 units of MCLE credit from the State Bar of California. Please see the registration page here for details and to sign up.

We are also offering a day-long mindfulness meditation retreat for members of the Berkeley Law community on Saturday, October 12 at Deer Run Zendo in Corte Madera. For more information and to register, visit the retreat page

Mindfulness Initiative News, June 2013

In June the Mindfulness Initiative hosted a gathering of more than 50 law professors, deans, staff and students from 32 law schools at the Workshop on Mindfulness in Legal Education. Over four days, the group assessed the development of mindfulness in law schools and the next phase of bringing the benefits of mindfulness to students, faculty and staff.

To view videos from the Workshop, please visit our YouTube channel.

Mindfulness Initiative News, March 2013

Recent events

On March 5, Professor john a. powell presented "Mindfulness & Social Justice: Reflections on the Self," a fascinating talk situating mindfulness as a tool for solving the alienation and disconnection at the root of many modern societal problems, particularly racial injustice. You can view the video on YouTube and download Professor powell's presentation here. Click here to purchase his book, Racing To Justice: Transforming Our Conceptions of Self and Other To Build An Inclusive Society.

On February 22 the Mindfulness Initiative hosted a Working Group on Mindfulness & Criminal Justice, featuring a number of leaders in bringing a meditative perspective into criminal justice work. Read our report here. Later in the day, the Mindfulness Initiative screened "Dhamma Brothers: East Meets West in the Deep South" a documentary about meditation programs in an Alabama maximum security prison. Working Group members Sujatha Baliga, David Onek and Jonathan Simon led an engaging discussion after the film (YouTube) with a sizable audience of students and faculty.

Mindfulness Initiative News, February 2013

Recent events

On Feb. 4, Shauna Shapiro, Ph. D., illuminated the psychology and neuroscience behind meditation and its applicability to law. The Santa Clara University professor presented the Art and Science of Mindfulness in law to a group of law students and professors in a well-received lunchtime talk.

Please click here to view the video on YouTube. To follow along with the PowerPoint presentation, you can download it here.

Upcoming events

Join us on February 22 at 1:30 p.m. in Room 132 at the law school for a public screening of The Dhamma Brothers, an acclaimed documentary illustrating the power of meditation for men incarcerated in a high-security Alabama prison. For more details click here.

On March 5, Professor john a. powell, currently the Executive Director of the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, will deliver a talk on the intersection of mindfulness and social justice, "Social Justice, Mindfulness and the Law: Reflections on 'the Self.'" Tirien Steinbach, Executive Director of the East Bay Community Law Center, will provide comments. 12:45-2 pm in Room 240, Boalt Hall. Lunch will be served. RSVP is appreciated at

On March 8, the Mindfulness Initiative is proud to co-sponsor a day-long conference in Richmond, CA on Practicing Mindfulness and Compassion in partnership with the Greater Good Science Center and The event will feature a keynote address by Jon Kabat-Zinn and presentations by Shauna Shapiro, Kristin Neff, Paul Gilbert, and many others. Please visit the Greater Good Science Center's event page to register and learn more. The event will also be webcast for those who cannot attend in person.

Registration for the Spring Berkeley Law meditation retreat (March 16-17) is now open! Click here for more information.

Mindfulness Initiative News, January 2013

Sujatha Baliga and restorative justice featured in the New York Times magazine.

A recent article in the New York Times magazine examines a restorative justice process facilitated by Sujatha Baliga, a local restorative justice practitioner and friend of the Mindfulness Initiative. Her clients were the Grosmaires, the parents of a young woman shot and killed by her boyfriend. It is believed to be the first case in the U.S. to apply restorative justice to a capital offense.

Announcing our spring calendar! (all events are free and open to the public)

The Mindfulness Initiative Spring Calendar includes a variety of engaging speakers and other events. Please join us!

February 4: The Art and Science of Mindfulness in Law with Shauna Shapiro. Dr. Shapiro, associate professor of counseling psychology at Santa Clara University and author of The Art and Science of Mindfulness, will offer scientific research and meditative practices for those in the legal profession interested in awakening the mind and opening the heart. Drawing on current research in psychology, medicine and cognitive neuroscience, we will investigate the effects of mindfulness meditation and its potential applications in law. We will explore specific pathways of applying mindfulness personally and professionally to cultivate greater compassion, clarity and well being. This is a brown bag lunch. 12:45-2 pm in Boalt Hall, Room 12.

February 22: We will host a public screening of The Dhamma Brothers, the acclaimed documentary about vipassana meditation courses in a southern Alabama prison and their profound effect on inmates, their families, guards, and policy-makers. The screening will be followed by a moderated discussion, including comments by a panel of restorative justice and criminal justice experts including Sujatha Baliga, David Onek, and Jonathan Simon. 1:30 p.m., Room 132.

On March 5, Professor john a. powell, currently the Executive Director of the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, will deliver a talk on the intersection of mindfulness and social justice, "Social Justice, Mindfulness and the Law: Reflections on 'the Self.'" 12:45 pm in Room 240, Boalt Hall.

March 16-17, the Mindfulness Initiative and the Berkeley Law Mindfulness Group co-host an overnight retreat for the Berkeley Law community (including students, faculty, staff, alumni, and significant others) at NatureBridge Conference Center, in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Please click here for more information.

Mindfulness Initiative News, October 2012

Recent event: Sujatha Baliga on mindfulness and restorative justice

Restorative justice expert Sujatha Baliga came to Berkeley Law on Monday, Oct. 22 to present "Law's Middle Way: Mindfulness and Restorative Justice" as part of the Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice's Ruth Chance Lecture series. Click here to access the video from Sujatha's talk.

In her talk, Baliga addressed the value of mindfulness practice in both her prior work as a criminal defense lawyer and in her current role as the Director of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency’s Restorative Justice Project. She discussed the parallel paradigm shifts invited by the practices of mindfulness and restorative justice, as well as the place of forgiveness in restorative processes.

More than 70 people turned out for Sujatha's talk, and engaged in a rich dialogue after her prepared remarks. As a reminder to students with a deeper interest in Restorative Justice, you may wish to consider registering for Professor Mary-Louise Frampton  Restorative Justice seminar (Law 231.8), which will be offered in Spring 2013.

Introduction to Mindfulness in Law draws 10% of 1L class

In its inaugural run, the new four-week, non-credit Introduction to Mindfulness for 1Ls course designed by the Mindfulness Initiative drew 27 students in two sections, nearly 10% of the incoming class.

In the weekly, two-hour course, Charlie Halpern, criminal law professor Jonathan Simon and Dan Carlin ('13) taught students a foundation of mindfulness techniques and their relevance to law study and law practice. Students maintained a daily meditation practice and were paired with a partner for support and dialogue. The students were highly engaged in the course, which culminated in them drafting a "road map" for how they plan to integrate mindfulness into their law school experience.

The students in the course are also part of an ongoing pilot study, designed by the Mindfulness Initiative's scientific advisor Emiliana Simon-Thomas of the Greater Good Science Center, which will track indicators of focus, awareness, stress, and other traits over the course of the students' law school careers.

Mindfulness Initiative News, September 2012

New Introduction to Mindfulness for 1Ls course

The Mindfulness Initiative is offering a new four-week, non-credit course for 1Ls taught by Charlie Halpern, to help them integrate mindfulness practice into law school for greater focus and effectiveness. We are working with the Greater Good Science Center to conduct a pilot study of the effect of meditation on the students in the class. Click here for an overview of the course and logistics. Email with any questions. 

Google's Meng Makes Gift to Mindfulness Initiative, Joins Advisory Council

We are pleased to announce that Chade-Meng Tan, a well-known philanthropist, speaker, and Google engineer has made a generous gift of $20,000 to the Mindfulness Initiative and joined the Mindfulness Initiative's Advisory Council. Search Inside Yourself, the seven-week mindfulness course Meng created at Google in collaboration with the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, has trained more than 1,000 Google employees in mindfulness skills. Meng has since launched the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute (SIYLI) in order to bring SIY to more companies and organizations around the world.

The Mindfulness Initiative is also excited to be co-sponsoring with the Greater Good Science Center a free talk by Meng on Tuesday, September 18 at the David Brower Center in downtown Berkeley on his new book, "Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Happiness, Success (and World Peace)". Please click here for more details. We encourage you to attend!


Mindfulness Initiative News, July 2012

The Mindfulness Initiative completed a successful first year of operation in 2011-12, launching a number of programs and laying the groundwork for a deeper engagement with Berkeley Law and the legal profession in 2012-13 and beyond.

Highlights of 2011-12

Throughout the year, the Mindfulness Initiative presented speaker events featuring some of the outstanding teachers and scholars in the field, including Jack Kornfield (below, with Tirien Steinbach), Jon Kabat-Zinn, Norman Fischer, Angela Harris, and Tirien Steinbach. All of these events are available in audio, video or both on our Events page.

Charlie Halpern, Jennifer Edlin and Jeff Selbin presented to clinical students at the East Bay Community Law Center on using mindfulness to more effectively work with traumatized clients and to cope with the emotional stresses of clinical work.

In the spring semester the Mindfulness Initiative, co-sponsoring with the Berkeley Law Mindfulness Group, presented an overnight meditation retreat at Nature Bridge Conference Center in Marin County attended by more than 20 students, faculty and staff. Attendees reported returning rejuvenated and refocused for their work and studies.

Plans for 2012-13

  • New mindfulness-based courses: Building on Charlie Halpern's seminar "Effective and Sustainable Law Practice: The Meditative Perspective," the Mindfulness Initiative is coordinating as many as three new courses grounded in mindfulness, including a skills course focused on effective relationships in law practice, a 4-week no-credit introduction to mindfulness in law for 1Ls, and a negotiations course with a prominent mindfulness dimension;
  • Meditation space at Boalt: Since the law school lacks a regular meditation space, we have proposed to transform an unused area behind the old library circulation desk into an “Impermanent Meditation Space” (IMS), soliciting designs through a student competition;
  • Clinical work: We plan to expand our work with clinical students serving low-income clients, to bring mindfulness into their work in order to build trusting relationships, to manage stress, and to be more effective advocates;
  • CLE/CJE programs: We will continue to present mindfulness-based CLE/CJE programs. We will give particular attention to lawyers who are doing social justice, civil rights, and environmental advocacy;
  • Law professors’ retreat: We will hold a retreat/workshop in the summer of 2013 for law professors from around the country who have already launched mindfulness-based courses or are considering doing so;              
  • Law school retreats and weekly meditation: To introduce new members of the community to meditation and support those with an established practice, the Mindfulness Initiative will co-sponsor a retreat each semester, as well as a weekly lunch-time meditation. To receive notices about these and other events, please email

Featured media

Lawyer-meditator spotlight: Thelton Henderson

Federal Judge Thelton Henderson of the Northern District of California has been a dedicated meditator for decades. In this interview with Charlie Halpern, he discusses his meditation practice and how it has enriched his life and informed his judicial practice.

Judge Thelton E. Henderson on his Meditation Practice from Center for Contemplative Mind on Vimeo.

2010 Mindful Lawyer Conference

More than 180 lawyers, law professors, and judges gathered at Berkeley Law in 2010 to discuss the impacts and possibilities of meditation for their work and the legal field. Berkeley Law Dean Christopher Edley introduced the conference. Audio and video from the event are available free on the Mindful Lawyer Conference website

Dean Christopher Edley opening the Mindful Lawyer Conference