Teaching Meditation for Lawyers
Lara Wharton practiced law for only seven months before moving on to follow her passion of teaching meditation for lawyers and other professionals. Under her brand, Listen Lightly, she provides meditation workshops for law firms and corporate clients, online guided meditations, and blog content about the power of mindfulness and meditation.
The Road to Law School
Lara Wharton completed her undergrad in geology at Queens University. She always liked science, but realized in her studies that she didn’t want to have a career in geology. After graduating, she took a year off and stayed in India for a few months. This is where she learned to be a yoga teacher and first got intrigued with meditation. Like others we’ve interviewed, she applied to law school with the intended goal of working in environmental law, wanting to combine her science background.
While in law school at Emory University in Atlanta, Lara took every environmental law class she could. She also took business classes because she knew that she wanted to return to Canada to article.
In her last year of law school, Lara unfortunately went through a life-altering health issue. One day she stood up from her seat in class and she was struck with excruciating pain in her back. She had a slipped disc in her spine and could not walk for several months. No doctor could figure out why this occurred and Lara was very frustrated not knowing why this happened to her, a young and healthy woman. She had to spend time focusing on rehabilitating her body, and this is when she turned inwards and got more focused on practicing meditation.
“I was healthy, young, active and not the type of person that would have an injury like this.”
While still healing, Lara kept trekking toward her career goals and completed her year of equivalency exams in order to work in Canada. She had previously summered at Wildeboer Dellelce in Toronto, and had an articling job lined up with them.
Lara loved working at Wildeboer, especially because of the smaller size of the firm and the community feel. She was doing corporate securities and was able to learn a lot while being trusted with important tasks early on. As time went on, it became clear to her that she was not passionate about her work. She started to feel very anxious because her passions did not line up with her day-to-day life.
“I liked being in the environment and being around smart people but I didn’t have a passion for the day-to-day work.”
While articling, she was asked to teach meditation to lawyers and other employees at the firm for a charity event. Since many people enjoyed it, she began to teach classes regularly and privately coach some of her colleagues.
After articling, she took six months to travel around the world. She returned with a renewed sense of self and decided that she would practice law for a few years before leaving to pursue something else. She tried to fight her anxiety with more meditation but after several months she noticed it was getting worse.
“It wasn’t that I was so stressed or busy, it was just doing something for so many hours of the week that I wasn’t passionate about was weighing on me.”
Lara was not sure what to do, but she knew that she could not follow her plan and work at the firm for several years. She got inspired by one partner at her firm that expressed to her immense gratitude for the meditation practices she taught him. He felt more energized, focused, more engaged with work, and more communicative at home. His enthusiasm made her realize that teaching meditation to help people enjoy their lives more is what she needs to pursue.
One morning, Lara called in sick because of her anxiety. She sat at home and thought about leaving law, and then built up the courage to go into work. She got dressed, went into the office (for what was supposed to be her mid-term review), and quit on the spot.
Taking on a New Role
After quitting in July, Lara took a few months to create a business plan and decide how to proceed in trying to share meditation with others. Then in January of 2017, she launched Listen Lightly.
“Once it came to me, I thought that’s exactly what I want to do with my life.”
She conducts meditation workshops for corporate clients that introduces people to mindfulness and meditation. Many law firms trust her as an ex-lawyer because she can understand the stress of her clients in high-pressure jobs. She takes a scientific approach in teaching the benefits of meditation, focusing on how it affects your brain. She also gives her clients tips and tools for incorporating mindfulness in their everyday lives.
“People become more productive, more efficient, more creative, and more patient.”
Lara also spends time developing her online content. She currently has a 30-day meditation guide for beginners including guided meditations. She also sends out regular newsletters, collaborates on blog articles, and works on her social media presence through Instagram and Youtube.
Lara acknowledges that she was very lucky in her transition in regards to getting clients. Many people from her network reached out to her when she announced the launch of her business. Through word of mouth she got her first client almost immediately and has been growing ever since.
One challenge that Lara expresses in teaching meditation is the stigma around the act of meditating. Some people do not take the benefits of meditation seriously and believe that meditation is very spiritual and hippie-like. Lara struggled a little in the beginning to be taken seriously, however she noticed in the past year that the stigma is dying out. Many studies are coming out about the benefits of meditation and celebrities are promoting it all the time. Now, lots of people are open and willing to try it without the false notions behind it.
Another challenge for Lara was letting go of the security of a steady job. Since she left law so abruptly, Lara had to work part-time as a receptionist for a few months while trying to figure out her next steps. Although her job was not stressful, Lara still experienced anxiety.
“I’ve learnt that personally I need a lot of flexibility. I can’t be in a role where I am limited in my freedom.”
At the same time, Lara was realizing that having a job was taking time away from developing her business. She knew that in order for it to grow, she needs to be completely focused and dedicated. She again had to quit her job and take a big risk.
“I had to have a lot of trust in the universe, especially at the beginning when I had no clients.”
Lara’s advice to others wanting to quit their job is to take the risk and go all in. She is so grateful to do something she loves everyday while also helping others. She is always inspired by people’s feedback on how meditation changed their lives, and that couldn’t have been possible if she did not have the courage to quit and pursue her passion.
“Being scared means you’re learning and you’re moving forward. The scary parts of life are the most valuable.”
Her second piece of advice is to meditate! Meditation, especially for lawyers who tend to carry a lot of stress is so beneficial in both physical and mental health.