In today’s world it’s very easy to lose touch with the better part of ourselves; not the superficial “selfie” we present to others, but the deeper, reflective inner being; the quiet witness of our experience. It’s this deeper sense of self that the poet Derek Walcott touches on in his poem, Love after Love:
The time will come when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome, and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was yourself.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart to itself, to the stranger who has loved you all your life, whom you ignored for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf, the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror. Sit. Feast on your life.
Most of us lead busy work lives, rushing from one thing to another, with very little time to prepare for the next activity, with no time to pause, to learn, to reflect, or settle back within ourselves; no time to recover stability and balance. So, we enter the next activity of the day with our head already full of unfinished business, feeling a bit unsettled, possibly with physical symptoms of stress building up, then we continue this pattern over the rest of the day.
Surely there’s a better way?
One alternative is to take an intentional pause in the time between activities, which allows us to check-in with ourselves; noticing what’s already here, acknowledging prevailing thoughts and emotions pressing for attention and becoming aware of physical tightness and tension that we may have accumulated, finding a bit of peace and calm and expanding our awareness a little.
By pausing you create the space to rebalance and reconnect with the calm and open sense of who you are. No longer caught up in the choppy waves on the surface, you become the wide ocean that contains them. Taking a pause is stepping off the treadmill for a few moments.
Punctuating your day with intentional pauses can make a real difference to your general awareness, flexibility and performance. Creating the space to skilfully respond, rather than automatically react.
Assuming you get a little bit of time before a meeting, you could walk instead of taking the lift, feeling the sensations of your body with a sense of gratitude, aware of the sounds around you, noticing your breath and movement of your body.
With a little more time available, you could use the breathing space, which, with practice, you can work through in a short space of time. As you do this, acknowledge and release any tension and emotions that you find, bring kindness and compassion to yourself and others and take an open and accepting attitude to whatever arises, resting in a sense of stillness, stability and balance, ready for the next activity.
Ways of incorporating a pause:
- See if you can start your day with an intentional pause as soon as you awake, noticing the sensations of your body, following your breath without becoming distracted by running through your to-do list
- Every action during the day has a natural end-point before the next activity. For instance, when you arrive at work, in between meetings, or after you’ve eaten your lunch. Use these natural breaks to practise pausing for a few moments
- Allow your phone to ring three times while you pause before answering
- If you find yourself waiting in a queue, or for your computer to boot up, make use of this time to practise a pause
The pause symbol of two vertical bars used on media controls is a variant of the square stop symbol and originally came from reel-to-reel tape machines. So, one way of seeing the pause button is that it represents the restful space between activities. By embedding a pause in our daily activity, we have greater access to the calm, open and kinder sense of self that is the source of our greatest potential and wisdom.
Find somewhere undisturbed, sit in a comfortable, dignified and upright posture, where you can remain alert and aware.
You can close your eyes, or lower your gaze while the meditations play.
Play the first settling practice, then read through the session content, which you can print off if that helps.
Then play the second practice to explore and experience intentionally pausing, shifting from agitation, noise and limitation to calm, still expansiveness
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