Koan, You Can Do It

A Koan (pronounced kōan,is an ancient Zen practice designed to help cultivate a different way of knowing. Working with koans, (perhaps the most famous koan is "What is the sound of one hand clapping?"), you come to appreciate the futility of using problem-solving techniques that rely too much on "thinking." The mind lets eventually lets go and additional ways of knowing emerge -- intuition, wisdom, insight.

As lawyers and legal professionals, we cherish our ability to think through a problem, to break it down to its fundamental parts, develop a method of solving it, and arrive at a solution. This skill serves us well and is one we refine throughout law school.

Sometimes, however, a solution is not to be found by applying a familiar method. We can rack our brains and get nowhere. We become frustrated and old friends like doubt and hesitation come knocking. When they do, we can lose our edge and our effectiveness can be compromised.

A Zen Koan is designed to help you get out of your mind and find solutions in places you might not have previously thought to look, or even known existed.

In law school Jurisprudence or a related course you likely learned that before there were laws, humans lived in a State of Nature. Yikes! Then, everyone agreed to a social compact in which they gave up some of their liberty and empowered a sovereign to govern and regulate society.

"Where is the State in a State of Nature?"