What happens during the pause – During the pause, we can start to get in touch with our vulnerability in a caring and compassionate way. We can begin to trust our natural intelligence, our natural wise heart, our capacity to open and respond wisely and lovingly to whatever arises. By pausing we awaken from our trance, we interrupt the auto-pilot and move into presence.
It is completely normal to fall back into autopilot, when our particular place of insecurity or vulnerability is touched. At these times of increased stress, we feel that we have no choice as to what we feel, think, say or do. So we go on autopilot, and react in our most habitual way to defend ourselves. But these behaviours only fuel our stress and suffering and stop us from attending to the parts of ourselves that most need our attention.
During the pause we learn to face and feel those deep places of vulnerability, we free ourselves to respond to our circumstances in ways that bring genuine peace and happiness.
It allows us to see clearly the stressors that are driving us. During the pause, we become fully conscious of how these stressors are impacting on us, and how we are reacting to situations and people. We then have a choice on how we respond: we can continue our futile attempts at managing our experience, or we can get in touch with our vulnerability with care and compassion.
After the pause
After the pause, we resume our activities with increased presence and more ability to make choices. When we pause we don’t know what will happen next, but by disrupting our habitual behaviours we make it possible for us to respond to the stressful situation in new and creative ways.
We can tap into whatever activity, gestures or words might be most caring and nurturing for us in this moment, and we can start to meet this need in us.
- Spend a little time every day doing something that you really enjoy, it could be anything like baking, gardening, reading a novel, watching a sunset, listening to music or playing a musical instrument, playing with your pet or your children.
- Practice relaxation: maybe do some gentle yoga before starting your day, listen to a guided meditation at bedtime, visualise a safe peaceful space in your mind and imagine spending time there. Practice the body scan every day to release accumulated tensions.
- Take some quiet time out for yourself, away from your usual demands, even if it is only for 15 minutes a day. You could simply sit and meditate (watching the breath for instance), or have a bath, have a cuppa and watch out through the window, enjoying the simple pleasure of doing nothing and simply being
- Be kind to yourself: as you know a compassionate and generous attitude towards yourself will support you through difficult times. Be aware of the self-critical voice within and practice self-compassion instead
- Cultivating the good in your life: having a gratitude practice, or a joy practice, turning your mind towards what is going well in your life, these practices engage the parasympathetic system and the relaxation response. Smiling and laughing often.
- Connect regularly with your friends and family
- Get some regular exercise, even a 10 minute walk every day is beneficial to reduce your stress levels
- Eat a nutritious balanced diet and avoid consuming too much caffeine and sugar. Include treats in moderation, have fun with your diet.
- Get good quality sleep – good sleep hygiene, go to bed at the same time each day, switch off electronics one hour before going to bed so you have plenty of time to wind down, listen to a guided relaxation if you have trouble letting go of the day
- Plan something to look forward to, for example a holiday, day trip or outing with friends or family
The pauses in our life make our experience meaningful: we need them. The sacred pause helps us reconnect with the present moment, especially when we are caught up in striving and obsessing, leaning into the future, pausing enables us to re-enter the mystery and life only found here and now, and it helps us to “keep our appointment with life”, as the Zen monk and mindfulness teacher Thich Nhat Hanh says so poetically.