A: It keeps you cool, calm, clear-headed, and collected, focused on your case and client, impervious to the devious distractions of your opponent designed to mess with your head and throw you off your game.
One of the Dharma talks I listened to during the "Be. Here. Now." retreat I attended at Deer Park Monastery was given by a monk who referred tongue-in-cheek to himself as "Young Brother" although he is actually quite an old brother. He told to a story I had not heard before which traces its telling back to Chuang Tzu, a Taoist sage living sometime before 250 B.C. Briefly, it goes like this:
“If a man is crossing a river and an empty boat collides with his own skiff, even though he be a bad-tempered man he will not become very angry. But if he sees a man in the boat, he will shout at him to steer clear. If the shout is not heard, he will shout again, and yet again, and begin cursing. And all because there is somebody in the boat. Yet if the boat were empty, he would not be shouting, and not angry."
His point was how to practice staying the course of calm in the face of some perceived action or word by another that might provoke us to unnecessary anger or rage.
So often it's our perceptions that make us crazy. Zen Buddhism would say that most of our suffering is caused by our own perceptions. And the notion of "colliding with an empty boat" is way to remind us that even if life is suffering we do not have to seek crucifixion.
In trial so often I've seen good lawyers go off the deep end because their opponent is just "messing with their head." If an emotion is true and serves you, by all means use it. Those that distract you from the task at hand only dilute your effectiveness.
If you would like to read a bit more on the teachings of "An Empty Boat" click here to read David Nelson's post as he muses on the teachings during his drive home from our retreat on the mountain.
David's post is a good reminder that I have many many miles of river to practice. At the very least I more fully appreciate a bumper sticker I saw recently that read, "When Jesus Christ said, 'Love your enemies' I think He probably meant 'Don't kill them.'"