Jury Duty as Crisis-tunity

Posted by Jeanne Barrett on November 23, 2019 in Uncategorized

“It’s always something” Roseanna Roseanna Dana

Life brings us endless opportunities to learn from delays, disruptions, surprises and unexpected shifts. Since we bring our entire instrument of self to every experience, we can also bring our constructive response, and view a challenge as an opportunity for refinement of our skills.

Like many people, I have dreaded the disruption of life that a jury duty summons implies. Loss of income, removal from preferred routines, and the weighty responsibility seemed daunting at best and overwhelming at worst. My dread had no influence on the court system, however. I was called, selected and I served, with a jury of my peers, on a civil trial of several weeks duration.

No amount of complaining in my brain could change circumstances. I knew from many previous crisis-tunities that there is always something to learn, a new experience to welcome, and a new application of dynamic non-interference. Thus, I began asking myself: how can I bring my best instrument of self to jury duty? This shift in emphasis from anxious resentment to possible learning increased curiosity about constructive solutions. Here is what worked best for me in creating conditions so that I could rise to this new demand.

1.Notice bias/habitual thinking

The presiding judge at our trial instructed us to remain keenly aware of our own biases, to pay close attention to testimony of witnesses, and to make our decision based on reason. I recast “bias” as “habitual thinking”. Being removed from familiar and usual conditions heightened awareness of bias/habitual thinking. Unusual circumstances revealed my usual reactions. Recognizing bias/habit is the first step to dynamically allowing a new response.

2. Walking, walking, walking

Jury duty is exhaustingly sedentary. As an Alexander teacher, I can sit well, but I rarely sit more than briefly during my work day. Thus, during lunch break, I walked miles for refreshment, motion, views and overall renewal. I rediscovered serene urban parks and discovered quiet urban spaces new to me. Walking quieted my entire self, as I welcomed the rhythm of the streets. My habitual thinking lowered in noise level and intensity. I found the steep hills in downtown Seattle to be particularly constructive in lowering my internal chatter volume.

3. Fun and connection

Jury duty is an odd social experience. The common thread that draws the thirteen jurors together (the case) is the experience the jury cannot discuss until deliberations begin. (Jurors cannot discuss the case with anyone until the case is complete). The jury, comprised of citizens from many walks of life and points of view, has an opportunity to find means of trust and communication other than the daily intensity of the trial, or the familiarity of “normal” life.

What gave us connection in the daily tedium was humor in the jury room. We had several themes of amusement that gave us a shared vocabulary. Laughing lightened us even on heavy testimony days. Once we reached deliberations, we could proceed with mutual trust toward our decision. This is not the same as agreement, but trust is necessary for discussion and shared decision making. Sharing jokes helped us be at ease with each other.

I was enormously relieved to return to the work I love and the life I have created. Being removed from work highlighted how deeply I enjoy the complexities and challenges of teaching the Alexander Technique. Relief was also enhanced by gratitude for all I learned as a juror: the necessary formality of the courtroom, the language of the law, and the potential for strangers, confined in an experience, to work together in a reasonable manner. I also learned, yet again, that a disruption can inspire new skills in rising to demand