A Purposeful Pause
Updated: Dec 30, 2020
If there is no stillness, there is no silence.
If there is no silence, there is no insight.
If there is no insight, there is no clarity.
The pandemic year of 2020: for many of us it feels like the ground has slipped out from beneath us. It may feel as if we no longer have something stable to stand on. People struggling with persistent pain can feel this way much of the time. The persistence of stress, worry and physical discomfort can truly make us feel a lack of confidence, control, or trust in our thoughts, interpersonal interactions, and even our own bodies.
My little community of Haines, AK was recently hit with what is being called a "200-year-storm". Buckets of rain fell on top of mounds of snow, and a shift deep in the earth created the perfect moment of instability to move the land, and giant trees, torn from their roots, down the hillside and into the ocean. Ten days after this destructive landslide left a scar on the earth, a visual reminder of the deep trauma and loss - it began to snow.
The delicate white flakes falling to blanket the ground sparked a core sense of healing for me. The new white canvas provided a little kindling of hope and ease and reminded me of the shift that happens when we simply take pause - a purposeful pause.
A purposeful pause is a mindful act used to interrupt the automatic trance we are often in as we move through life, especially in times of stress or pain. It is here that we choose to pause the reactivity, the physical posturing, and all the stories that seem to be paired with stress, pain, and anxiety.
In general, mindfulness practices like pausing have demonstrated a reduction in emotional reactivity. Improvements have also been demonstrated with mood, body awareness, greater pain acceptance and even higher order thinking, when mindfulness is utilized. These results don’t happen with one pause, of course, but they can happen when we learn to practice mindfulness with regularity. A purposeful pause is an easy way to initiate a mindfulness practice, or sprinkled throughout the day, this practice can serve as an adjunct to longer meditation or yoga sessions.
Let’s practice a pause,
I invite you to
place one or both hands over your heart,
close your eyes or gaze neutrally away from the screen,
take three complete breaths - Maybe you can allow the space between the breaths to linger a little or feel as if the air washes all the way through you with each inhale and exhale - if these instructions feel odd or foreign don't worry about them and just breathe.
Open your eyes or return your gaze to the screen. Note the simple shift that can happen in your inner landscape and physical being when you: Pause.
That is one way to pause, below are a few more options.
Pause on cue:
Choose a cue that is present in the day’s routine to remind you to consciously and purposefully pause. Take at least three breaths with an encouragement to bring yourself out of autopilot and into the present moment. This cue could be each time you reach for the key to start the car or just before you hit the send button on an email or whenever you hear the ping of your mobile device, etc.
Pause to connect:
When you greet someone for the first time each day, meet them with eye contact and take one to three breaths prior to verbally engaging.
Reach across the breakfast table and touch your child, partner or roommate’s hand, take one to three breaths together before consuming the meal.
When you catch your own reflection in the mirror, meet your own eyes and feel your breath wash through you.
Pause for gratitude:
Light a candle in gratitude and gaze at the flame while you breathe full and deep.
Take a longer pause outside:
Set your alarm ten minutes earlier in the morning and encourage yourself outside for a moment of fresh air and an opportunity to pause before your day even begins. Let your eyes and ears take in the waking of the day and let your mind simply focus on your inhales and exhales. You can linger here for 1 minute or as long as you have available.
Choose to take an evening stroll after dinner with the intention of breathing and releasing all the events of the day as an act of starting with a clean slate tomorrow. To do this set an easy walking pace, with each inhale reflect on a happening of the day general or specific and with each exhale, image just letting it go. Again this stroll could be as short as a few minutes or as long as you need to get through your thoughts, emotions and events of the day.
Let’s pause together:
I invite you to join me in ending this year and beginning the next with an intention to gain a stronger foundation for presence, everyday. We can pledge this intention in solidarity through the practice of taking a purposeful pause at least once each day. If you’d like, leave a comment on our Facebook page to act as your commitment to join this collective intention.
With hope for healing,
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Image: Photo Marnie Hartman, Haines, AK. 2020