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Formula for Success: Meditative Art + Neuroscience = Happy, Healthier Lawyers

A MINNEAPOLIS LAW FIRM USED MEDITATIVE PAINTINGS AND MEDICAL TESTS TO MEASURE STRESS REDUCTION AND OTHER IMPACTS

MINNEAPOLIS, MINN., — October 24, 2008 — How can anyone stressed out in these difficult times learn to calm down? A Minneapolis law firm, an artist and a doctor might have the answer.

Taking a holistic and totally innovative approach to improving business practices and the health of its attorneys, the Minneapolis law firm Parsinen Kaplan Rosberg + Gotlieb P.A., (PKR+G) recently turned to art, meditation and science to understand if the calming “nature” paintings by renowned artist Joan Solomon could impact productivity and help increase profitability by providing stress relief. First reactions to the study at the distinguished law firm, which specializes in corporate counsel, litigation, real estate and estate planning ranged from skepticism to intrigue. But in the end art proved triumphant through science.

The unusual experiment was overseen by Robert Bruley, MD, DC, of The Bruley Center in southwest Minneapolis. Dr Bruley graduated with the first class from Mayo Medical School, holds a degree in chiropractic from Northwestern Health Sciences University, is board-certified in holistic medicine and specializes in Integrative and Functional medicine.

The overall result?
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  • 66% overall improvement in stress response among PKR+G attorneys
  • 9% increase in collected revenue for the firm
  • Enhanced relationships among legal staff and clients
  • Interesting conversations about mind, art and medicine

After 60 Solomon paintings and 40 prints — some have been described as containing “worlds within worlds” and “healing works of art” — were hung throughout the PKR+G offices, Doctor Bruley focused on how stress and adrenal function were affected by art through an “Art Calm” relaxation/meditation technique devised by the artist. The 18 participating attorneys who engaged in the process each selected a painting for their office, and four times a day, with the ringing of a Zen bell through their computers, they then were asked to spend 10 seconds or more in Art Calm mediation while gazing at the paintings.

According to Bruley, the collective and individual results showed a marked improvement among those studied. It also demonstrated the benefits associated with meditation and, in this case, the power of Solomon’s paintings to inspire more peaceful, healthier states, based on key factors such as blood pressure and adrenal functions.

“At the initiation of the 10-week study, then once again at its conclusion, each participating lawyer completed a subjective stress-scale questionnaire and was then examined,” explains Bruley. “We also assessed participants’ pupillary reaction to light as a measure of adrenal function and, in particular, compared first their recumbent then their standing pulse and blood pressure. To most accurately and objectively determine the subjects’ stress response, the comparison of their systolic (upper blood-pressure number) pressures were utilized. Ideally, this systolic blood-pressure change should be an increase of six to 10 points (mmHg). An increase greater than this would imply over-function of the adrenals; an increase less than this — or any decrease — would suggest adrenal hypo-function.”

“The benefits of the experiment were clear from the very beginning,” notes Mary Kay Ziniewicz, PKR+G Marketing Director “We saw attorneys stepping out of their comfort zone and into an artist’s studio to connect with art. They learned about themselves and their colleagues. Clients and staff gained insight into the sensitive side of their legal counsel and conversations took place that would not have otherwise taken place, ranging from “Why did you select that painting?” to “I didn’t know you liked fish!”

The artist’s works generate “by themselves — almost like automatic writing”

“The experiment at the law firm again conveys how mindfulness and simple deep breathing breaks at work can produce measurable scientific results for healthier people, including very busy and often overworked lawyers,” notes Solomon, who is also a writer and photographer and the creator of the enchanted and practical book, Spirits in the Garden: the Amazing Realm of Secret Life All Around Us” (Grynwild Publishing www.joansolomon.com). “Some of the attorneys who experienced positive results didn’t even bother with the meditation or breathing, they just looked at the art.”

Participants in the study are pictured above standing with select paintings: (l to r) Dr. Robert Bruley, participant Laura Krishnan of PKR+G, Artist Joan Solomon and Mary Bruley of the Bruley Center.

This isn’t the first time Solomon’s mystical art that is gently centered in the natural world has been put to the test in real world settings. Her visionary work is often found across the country in clinics, nursing homes, healing centers — and among a growing number of savvy, international collectors. Solomon, a former senior-level professional from the advertising and branding worlds, began spontaneously painting 20 years ago and had no formal training as a painter.

“My paintings just started by themselves, almost like automatic writing,” says the painter who for the first years of her artistic initiation never even signed her work. “I always felt like I was suddenly endowed with a gift, that the paintings just came through me. Why would I sign them?”

The Experiment was First Met With Hilarity
The unlikely collaboration of the artist, doctor and lawyer occurred when Solomon and Ziniewicz met over tea. PKR+G lawyer Laura Krishnan thought the two should “connect”. Indeed they did. During a lively conversation about Joan’s art and its power to relax and heal an idea surfaced — what better group than attorneys to conduct an experiment combining art and science?

Solomon then introduced Dr. Rob Bruley and his wife (and co-worker) Mary to the law firm — and the three parties quickly understood the collaboration offered their business much value. The concept was first met with great hilarity but also with a keen eye to the overall opportunity by firm managing partner, Howard Rubin, who signed off on the study and encouraged his colleagues to participate.

In May 2008 the experiment began when Dr. Bruley met with firm attorneys individually at the PKR+G office and measured stress and adrenal fatigue. The base measurements were recorded at the beginning and again at the end of the 10-week period. The experiment ended in July, when Dr. Bruley took the final stress measurements and produced the rewarding results.

For more information — or to interview the principals in the study — please contact Martin Keller at Media Savant Communications, 612-729-8585, mkeller@mediasavantcom.com

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