We’re in a courtroom of a busy courthouse in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the most populated city in the state. After a few minutes of greeting each other and catching up, someone closes the door to the hallway while everyone settles into their seats. There’s some activity in the hallway, as others in the courthouse wind up their day and head home.
Soon it’s very quiet in the courtroom, but these lawyers and officers of the court haven’t gathered to argue a case. We’re here to close our eyes and begin our afternoon practice of the Transcendental Meditation® (TM®) technique, together as a group.
Sharing Inner Peace, in the Courtroom and Beyond
The organizer of these weekday Courthouse group meditations is Senior Assistant State’s Attorney Kevin Dunn. He enthusiastically notifies everyone who practices TM in the regional legal system to join us.
I’ve been a TM teacher for 43 years, and Kevin and I have known each other for just as long. We met when he learned TM a few months after I started teaching, though I wasn’t his teacher. Occasionally he reminds me that no matter how hectic his life may be—as he became a lawyer and then a state’s attorney—he’s never missed his twice-daily TM practice.
And as a prosecutor for domestic violence cases, Kevin’s job can be very stressful. For some time he worked for the Chief State’s Attorney’s Office and was the statewide Domestic Violence Resource prosecutor. This meant traveling around the state to prosecute offenders in high-profile cases.
But you’d never guess Kevin’s high-stress vocation from his gregarious presence. He is what we in New England call a wysiwyg (WIZ-e-wig), our affectionate acronym for what you see is what you get. And what you get with Kevin is a dose of reality mixed with a keen interest in the well-being of others, plus a heaping dash of charm.
Kevin feels it’s his calling to encourage people to learn the TM technique. In recent years, I would estimate that he’s responsible for encouraging upwards of a hundred people to take the TM course, and probably more, due to the snowball effect.
What you get with Kevin is a dose of reality mixed with a keen interest in the well-being of others, plus a heaping dash of charm.
A Life-Changing “Gift for Life”
The courthouse participants in the TM group meditation include TM practitioners from all areas of the legal system. There are prosecutors, defense attorneys, social workers, police officers, and family resource officers. There are attorneys who aren’t associated with the Bridgeport Courthouse who travel from outside the area to join the group. They were all inspired to learn TM as a result of Kevin’s encouragement.
Kevin and two of his colleagues, who are also Senior Assistant State’s Attorneys, form the trio of prosecutors at the core of the Courthouse meditations: Judy Stevens and Stephanie Damiani.
When Judy learned the TM technique at our Fairfield County TM Center, she told me that she rediscovered her evenings. She used to come home exhausted from the circumstances of her job, unable to do anything but rest. But with her TM practice, she has newfound energy to enjoy the evening hours.
Stephanie has gained profound respite with her TM practice. Because of her meditations, she says she’s finally found a way to settle her mind and experience peace and quiet in a world full of noise.
Other regulars include Dr. Valerie Quarles, who is a Family Resource Officer at the Bridgeport Courthouse. Before deciding to take the TM course, Val wanted to be sure the TM technique would not interfere with her religious practice. She called a friend and pastor in North Carolina to get his input and was surprised to discover that he had recently learned the TM technique himself and highly recommended it for her. Val says that her TM practice has been life-changing.
Another colleague, Maurice Hill, M.S.W., is the supervisor for all the Family Resource Officers. Maurice says that his TM practice has given him what he calls, “a gift for life.”
With her TM practice, Judy Stevens has newfound energy to enjoy the evening hours.
Friends across the Aisle
Fred Paoletti is another participant in the group meditations. Like Kevin, Fred is a long-time TM practitioner and lawyer, but he is a defense attorney.
Kevin has mentioned that at times he and Fred are on opposite sides of the aisle on a case, but they are always cordial and respectful of each other. Because of this, they’re able to arrive at mutually acceptable conclusions more quickly.
Sometimes I wonder if they might have just come from a case, when we sit together to meditate in the now-quiet courtroom.
Paying It Forward
One example that is high on my Grateful for Kevin list occurred five years ago.
When traveling around the state for his cases, Kevin met someone who was arranging programs to reduce stress for Connecticut state troopers. Kevin encouraged the David Lynch FoundationSM (DLF), which provides the TM program to veterans and at-risk populations, to support a program as part of this initiative. They agreed, and soon we were instructing our state troopers in the TM technique.
Some of the officers who learned had been involved with the aftermath of the tragic school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. With the TM technique, they were able to eliminate some of the unimaginable stress they had experienced that day.
Following this initial effort, a group of social workers and court advocates also wanted to learn the TM technique. Then, as a result of that group, we began a TM course for doctors and social workers at the VA hospital who specialized in treating veterans with post-traumatic stress (PTS). This course in turn led to another one for veterans suffering from PTS.
As a result of Kevin’s determination based on a single contact, several dozen people learned and benefitted from the TM technique. Everyone knew someone, and they passed their encouragement to learn TM® on to the next group, in order to pay it forward.
In addition to colleagues and acquaintances, Kevin has inspired many of his friends and family to learn TM as well. I often get calls from him to tell me about someone he’s currently motivating to take the TM course, or to check in on someone who has recently learned.
If he’s telling me about someone new, I can be sure that person will be at our TM Introductory Talk soon enough.
Kathleen Connor is the Director of the Fairfield County, Connecticut TM Program.