In her late 30s, attorney Susan Busby was feeling the crushing weight of her life. There were multiple family deaths, a bad marriage and a child with health issues-all on top of a busy and demanding practice.
"You name it, I had it," Busby said of stressors in her life. "It was a crazy time in my life." That's when she started to get seriously involved in Buddhist meditation to slow things down.
Now 10 years later, she's co-director and instructor at a meditation center using her knowledge in her recently launched solo practice focused on divorce mediation.
Meditation "really does help me in my work, especially with these high emotions that are involved in divorces," Busby said. "It helps me not get so wrapped up with what is going on in my head."
Busby teaches at Nalandabodhi Connecticut, located in Bloomfield. The center was started by University of Connecticut School of Law professor Deborah Calloway about a decade ago. There are a handful of lawyers among the dozens of students who take courses at the center or participate in weekly meditation sessions. The programs are free and open to the public and attract people from all religious backgrounds.
As Busby jokes, her hobby involves "a lot of sitting around."
But Buddhist meditation is not just about sitting still for an hour without thinking, Busby noted: "The point is to start generating awareness about how your mind works."
That leads to an understanding of how to control emotions and reactions to what's going on around a person while teaching that every action is connected in the big picture, Busby said.
Divorce work certainly provides ample opportunities to relay some of that knowledge.
"Not just for clients but for lawyers, they get tunnel vision and start to take the short view on things," Busby said. "It's like people fighting over the soup bowls in a divorce. It's not really about the soup bowls; it's about the underlying emotions.
"What Buddhism has taught me is that thoughts and feelings come and go. If you don't fuel the fire, the emotion fizzles out."
Busby's approach to life and her work didn't gibe with the philosophy at the Louden Law Firm in Hartford, which features seven family law litigators, where she was practicing. Busby's desire to promote mediation over litigation led her to launch her own practice in West Hartford last month after an amicable split.
In mediation, she's able to sit down with both parties and use her education in Buddhism to get people to stay focused on the overall goal of settling a dispute rather than nit-picking their way to the end.
"The ability to incorporate the philosophical views [of Buddhism] has helped me teach adults not to get caught up in the minutiae," Busby said. "When we let emotions get control, that's when we end up doing crazy things."
Busby said she's at the point in her own development where she can sense when her mind is starting to take off on a tangent, and she's able to re-focus and remain calm and collected. It's the type of emotional control that even novices can understand when they start to meditate. "It's like lassoing a wild horse," Busby said.
And of course, this is the time of year when everyone is running wild, but Busby said the meditation center doesn't see an increase in participants. Rather, fewer people tend to show up because they're busy with other commitments during the holiday season.
"I think we see more people in January," Busby said, with regulars returning to the fold and new participants vowing to improve themselves in the New Year.
Busby also is working on developing a special meditation program for lawyers and other busy professionals.
"It gives me joy to help people access these teachings because I see how helpful they are to me and other people," Busby said. "I feel like my life is saner now than it was [10 years ago]. I see a huge difference between how I react to things now and how I reacted then."