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Stolen laptop puts mindfulness to the test

During a recent trip to South Africa, Toronto-area family lawyer Nicolle Kopping-Pavars got a chance to put her mindfulness training to the test.

Kopping Pavars, principal of NKP Law, spent several weeks in the country leading training sessions in collaborative practice, workshops on mindfulness and emotional intelligence, as well as giving the keynote address at the South African Association of Mediators’ annual conference.  

However, disaster struck when Kopping-Pavars’ laptop was stolen from the trunk of her rental car during a quick stop at a gas station, robbing her of all her presentation material along with the printed material that had been prepared for the workshops over the next couple of days.

“Sometimes you wonder if all this mindfulness training is working, but this was proof for me that it has been,” she tells AdvocateDaily.com. “I felt this fear go through me, I felt the blood drain from my face and from every cell in my body. Everything I came to South Africa for was gone, all my PowerPoint presentations, workshops notes and workshop material had disappeared in an instant. That could easily have resulted in a temper tantrum or pure panic, but because of my strong mindfulness practice, I was able to stop myself from reacting in a negative and dangerous way.

"Once I recognised that I was feeling fear and anxiety and I was able to acknowledge that it was there, I was then able to breathe and to make some space in my mind and body to respond appropriately. I was able to calmly walk up to people around me and ask if they had seen anything. I was able to go back into the shop to check surveillance footage and call the police,” she continues.

Kopping-Pavars says mindfulness helps practitioners to develop an awareness of biological processes such as the virtually automatic “fight or flight” response activated by the amygdala in the brain, allowing them to stop it from being triggered as often. 

“Having that presence of mind, knowing what my body was doing, and knowing how to create space around the crazy thoughts that were going through my mind, allowed me to take control in that moment,” she says.

Kopping-Pavars had her two sons with her for the whole episode and says the calmness of her reaction was reflected in their demeanour afterwards.

“It encouraged conversation as opposed to trauma, and we were able to talk about it on the way to police station,” she says. “If you’re doing it correctly, mindfulness can emanate positivity into every aspect of life, and to the people you are with.”   

On her return home, Kopping-Pavars ran into another test of her everyday mindfulness when she discovered that there was no back-up of what she had lost. All of this coincided with preparations for an office relocation and renovation.   

“There were thousands of decisions to make, and now I was operating my practice from my iPhone. If it wasn’t for mindfulness, it would have been hard to stop those external stressors from controlling me,” Kopping-Pavars says. “If you don’t have awareness of what your body and mind is doing at any given time, you are then acting on automatic pilot, and you will quickly fly down to the bottom of the vortex. You need to work with the stress, not against it. You need to understand your automatic reactions, get comfortable with them

"You need to work with the stress, not against it. You need to understand your automatic reactions, get comfortable and familiar with them, so that when they arrive, to fly through your house creating chaos, you can firmly recognize those emotions and say 'not now, not today.'"

“Imagine if lawyers were able to do that; to acclimate to their emotions as they happen and prevent them from taking over control, or worse, falling back on habitual or dangerous habits. Their work and home lives would be so much better,” she adds.

Kopping-Pavars has developed everyday mindfulness workshops and meditation clinics to lawyers and law firms. Anyone who is interested in learning more can contact her at nicolle@nkplaw.ca.

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