The Mindful Pause

In the past few days I have noticed myself stopping to just sit and look out the window to watch the flowers grow. This pause has felt strange at times, even slightly uncomfortable. But, when I give myself over to the pause, I feel like there is something being born in that space of stillness.

Taking a mindful pause is often discussed in mindfulness-based interventions as the space in which we choose our next response instead of reacting to a difficult situation. But the  mindful pause I’m experiencing is not surfacing in reaction to something that has happened to trigger a strong emotional response in the moment, but to the more gradual changing circumstances that we find ourselves in. Moving gradually from lockdown to moving out into greater connection is movement that feels unclear and undefined. The pause is asking me to consider it from the heart instead of the head.

Fr. Richard Rohr described this as “liminal space” — “an inner state and sometimes an outer situation where we can begin to think and act in new ways. It is where we are betwixt and between, having left one room or stage of life but not yet entered the next.” He recently wrote so beautifully about this in his daily blog.

This mindful pause is calling to me to pay attention to how I have been and what I have been doing while sheltering at home and not to jump into old patterns when life opens back up.  This mindful pause is asking for my stillness and my silence, to experience the openness and emptiness of being instead of the fullness that comes with extra activity. This mindful pause is asking me to take what I’ve learning from this time and let it inform the future.

This mindful pause feels creative and new. What do I want life to look like as I move forward? What choices made when given more space to “be” can be expressed in a life that often got too busy in the past? How did I learn to do things in a new way that might inform a better tomorrow?  How can I construct this time of transformation through conscious choices?  This moment in time feels like an opening in which new possibilities are available.

If you would like to join me in creating a life informed by this extraordinary time that we are living through, consider these five steps.

1. Pause. Stop all activity and sit still in one place. This can be a time in meditation or it can be as I described it earlier—looking out the window and watching the flowers grow. (By the way, if it was warmer today, I’d be sitting outside instead of looking out the window!).

2. Relax. Give yourself over to the pause. Relax your muscles and let your breath deepen. It might take a moment to feel yourself letting go into the pause, so give yourself time. Sense the earth, steady and strong, underneath your body and let it support you.

3. Take it all in. There might be numerous emotions moving through you right now. Take them all in and resist nothing. What you resist persists. What you allow moves through you and opens room for the next moment and emotion to arise. Indeed, welcome whatever arises as if you had invited it in.

4. Hold yourself with kindness. As the the Dalai Lama says “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” And, I might add, really needed right now. Kindness is a perfect response in all situations and learning to give it to yourself is one of the best skills you can develop. I like placing my hands over my heart and breathing in and out from the heart center–feeling the warmth and goodness that is present there.

5. Do what makes your heart sing. Let the mindful pause help you create. Instead of getting caught into the busyness of the old life, what would make your heart sing as you live into the new world. Do you want to plant more flowers and gaze at them grow, play more often with your children or with others, spend less time on Facebook, cook more, give more, sing more, dance more, love more, read more, write more? The list is endless. 

Pause and search your heart for the way you want to be in this life—a life that might seem a bit more precious than you gave time to acknowledge before.  Wishing you a time of great creativity and joy.