The old one-dimensional female archetypes -- the soccer mom, the starving artist, the successful-but-lonely boss lady -- are dead. Women are creating new, multidimensional archetypes and defying stereotypes. The most fulfilled women are constantly creating in multiple areas of their lives, whereas burnout often happens when we feel like the routine of our day job is all we have time for. The Archetypal Woman Series is a tribute to inspiring women who rearrange time and space to explore and excel in a range of activities. May their stories encourage you to expand into your own uniqueness for the benefit of you and everyone in your orbit.
Editor's note: Since childhood, Susan "Daya" Hamwi has dreamed of building peace on earth. This has taken many forms, but over the course of her career it has included advocating for children during custody cases, mentoring incarcerated youth, teaching yoga to children (including some in detention centers), and serving on the board of Peace Now, which seeks to find common ground over polarizing issues. Her day job, as a mediator, is to empower families in challenging transition times to resolve their issues in a peaceful, sustainable way. Anyone who has been through, or seen a family member go through, divorce will appreciate Daya's revolutionary and compassionate approach. ~ Mary Margaret
When did you know you wanted to become a lawyer?
When I was a young girl I wanted to be a lawyer like my beloved father who I adored and admired. I would go to his office as much as possible when I was young (five to thirteen years old) and help out when I could. He was loved by all his clients and helped everyone in the family with all their legal issues. He taught me about kindness and compassion. He passed when I was in high school and sixteen years young. I followed in his footsteps and went to Loyola Law School and became a lawyer at 25.
Did you always want to practice family law?
Well, I wasn’t quite sure what area of law I would practice. I always wanted to create peace in my family and was fascinated by relationships. So I gravitated toward the human side of law--juvenile law and family law. The social/personal relational law rather than business. In college, my focus was Law and Society, which blended sociology, psychology and law.
You’ve been a regular Kundalini yoga and meditation practitioner for years. How does your meditation practice impact the way you work?
My yoga/mediation practice keeps me in a space of balance and neutrality and gives me the energy and confidence to stay present in a way to really serve my clients. Often we go for hours with clients. I have developed an ability to see through every block and facilitate with embodying the sutras of the Aquarian age and my Kundalini practice.
Earlier in your career, you represented minors in court proceedings. You’ve also handled numerous divorce, custody and dependency cases, and were a mentor to incarcerated youth at the California Youth Authority in Ventura. You have undoubtedly been in some very heavy situations. How do you stay strong enough to not let emotions take over?
I have had to build my muscle here and really take good care of myself so that I may show up for others in a powerful way. During my first five years, that was not the case. I was burnt out and took on everyone's emotions. It was draining. However, I began to really care for myself with Kundalini yoga and dance.
Did what you see working with children give you any hope?
I know that no matter what a child goes through they can still thrive in life. Children are resilient. Often these kids did not feel loved or that anyone cared for them. I learned that these kids for the most part did not feel loved or connected. Many of their family relationships were broken. I see how children are fragile yet strong and their capability to get thrown any situation and thrive is possible.
Divorce is so often a contentious process. At your current firm, Settlement Works, Dynamic Family Resolution you aim to make the process as peaceful as possible. I saw one positive review on your website of your mediation services that said “You don't come out of it as a ruined person". I think a lot of people do feel “ruined” after a divorce proceeding. How do you and your team approach the mediation to make it more compassionate?
We realize it's not often an easy or comfortable process. However, we strive to allow each party to be heard and received in a compassionate way. We facilitate the process to allow for that safe space for expression. We find often that once a client can really express from a deeper place, we can move the energy toward a solution /resolution. We abide by the “conscious uncoupling” creed which requires each party to honor each other in a way to allow expression.
We (the facilitators) have spent many years gathering many tools that we utilize. We have plenty of tools in our toolbox. We use compassionate/conscious communication and non-violent communication.
Both myself and my business partner have immersed ourselves in various different relationship and communication tools like are neurolinguistic programming, non-violent communication, Landmark, Lifesprings, and Kundalini.
We believe that creating a safe, supportive environment for people to share what's up for them lends itself to a place to express and heal in the process.
Is your office really on a boat in Marina Del Rey?! How did this come about, and how does the setting affect your mediations?
Yes, we have had a beautiful 59-feet vintage Criss Kraft Yacht called Concordance for thirteen years. We have created a beautiful, comfortable space to meet with clients. We love it. It's on the healing waters. Our clients smell the fresh air and take in the beauty, and it lends itself toward creating a calm comfortable setting. Believe me, everything serves. The energy on the water is fluid and lends itself to healing and relaxing.
What have you learned about relationships as a result of your work?
Relationships are often in transition. We have a choice on how to move through these transitions with compassion for ourselves and the other or not. And how we move and relay through our relationships is key to creating a joyful life. Relationships in the human realm are everything. And a good relationship requires commitment to yourself and the other as well as inner work.
Daya blends her gifts as a family lawyer, mediator and Kundalini Yogi to provide a safe, supportive space for dynamic family resolution. She raised her now 21 year-old son as a single mother. She serves on the Advisory Board of Peace Now. She also represents several parents who have chosen to advocate for alternative natural healing methods for their children. Daya has a BA from UC Santa Barbara and a JD from Loyola Law School.
Subscribe here to receive the Archetypal Woman Series straight to your inbox.