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Silent hike can help lawyers reconnect: Kopping-Pavars

Stress and anxiety are common in the legal profession, but Toronto-area family lawyer Nicolle Kopping-Pavars is offering three ways to help her peers deal with those issues.

The first way is to take a silent hike in a natural setting, says Kopping-Pavars, principal of NKP Law and Lotus-Law.

“A silent hike is just an opportunity to be immersed in nature, away from your responsibilities, from social media, your cellphone and your never-ending list of things to do,” she tells AdvocateDaily.com.

“While we are on the trail, no one is allowed to be in conversation, so no talking about work,” Kopping-Pavars says. “The hike is done in complete silence.”

She says that allows people to mentally slow down and be more aware of their surroundings.

“The only thing you’re focusing on is your breathing,” Kopping-Pavars says. “If you are immersed in conversation, you aren’t aware that the birds are calling, that there’s nature all around you.”

When people are silent, she says the calming presence of nature can then ease its way inside.

“The intention is for you to pay attention to what’s around you,” Kopping-Pavars says.

“The purpose of the hike is to bring the silence within you, so at the very least you can carry that back with you when you return to work.”

She hopes to begin these silent weekend hikes this summer, starting in York Region.

When participants arrive, they will do a light stretch before a short talk about what walking meditation is all about, explains Kopping-Pavars. After a five-minute guided meditation, the silent hike begins, immersing participants in nature for the next 40 to 60 minutes.

“These hikes are important as people disconnect, then reconnect in a very different way,” she says.

“Lawyers need this reconnection to stop their minds from racing and to bring awareness into the moment.”

Once she has the details for the hikes finalized, Kopping-Pavars says she will approach the Law Society of Ontario about having them accredited in some way, such as counting towards a lawyer’s CLE hours.

“The law society is very supportive of mindfulness initiatives, and mental health and mental wellness, and it always wants to support new and known initiatives and strategies that help those in our profession,” she says.

The second way Kopping-Pavars wants to assist lawyers is with a unique deck of cards she has created, each offering either an insight, quote or a story.

She says the inspiration for the cards came to her when she was teaching, “as I wanted to give my students some kind of tool to assist them with instilling a dedicated, everyday mindfulness practice.”

At the start of the week, Kopping-Pavars would tell her students to choose a card, and then let the message on that card guide their actions.

“The cards were created intuitively, so they are not in a particular order,” she says

“I always tell my students that they don't have to choose a specific card, as the card they need will find them,” Kopping-Pavars says.

“Just pick a card that feels good, and whatever is on that card is your lesson for the week.”

She says the lessons on the cards will help anyone achieve mindfulness, especially lawyers who can keep them on hand in their office.

The third tool she offers is her newly published book, Insights for Everyday Mindfulness.

“When I realized that some people perhaps didn't connect or understand the lessons of the cards, I created a book, incorporating all the messages, insights and lessons from the cards,” Kopping-Pavars says.

“The book has the card’s message on the left-hand page and then the full lesson on the right side,” she says. “If people are unsure of what the card means, they can go to the book and look it up.”

Kopping-Pavars says she has received a “fantastic response” to both the book and the cards.

“People can carry both around with them,” she says. “They are not just tools for when you are feeling anxious.”

Kopping-Pavars says lawyers and the general public can contact her office to buy the book and cards, or to enquire about the silent hikes.

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