There probably isn’t anything I find more powerful or helpful than a pause. Stopping and taking a deep breath when you’re stressed, angry, impatient, or frustrated can keep you from (a) saying things that you wished you hadn’t said, (b) sending emails you wished you hadn’t sent, (c) doing things that you wish you hadn’t done, or (d) all of the above.
People call the pause by many different names. Tara Brach, in her book Radical Acceptance, calls it the “sacred pause.” Janice Marturano, in her book Finding the Space to Lead, calls it a “purposeful pause.” The authors of Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy for Depression call it a “three minute breathing space.” I often call it a “taste of mindfulness.”
Call it what you wish, a pause from your busy lives to check in with how you are feeling, what you are thinking, and how your body feels is all that you might need to avoid any of the behavior above and to help you settle down enough to let your clarity and wisdom arise. If nothing else, it gives you time to rethink your next move. It helps you tap into the wisdom of your body so that you take care of it better. Instead of reactively reaching for a cup of coffee when you’re tired, you might get up and walk, stretch, lie on the floor, take some deep breaths.
A pause can help you re-center into the present moment and really take in what is going on. At work this is particularly helpful. Perhaps you’re in a meeting but your mind is thinking about something else and you’re not really catching what’s going on. You miss some of the main points and then you feel pretty timid about asking what you missed. I have put a random mindfulness bell called Lotus Bud on my phone that can go off at any time. It rings and says “take a breath and be mindful.” When it goes off in a meeting, we all pause and take a breath or two. It’s amazing how it slows things down (in a good way) and helps people stay more focused on the task at hand.
A pause can be short or long. Short pauses are particularly good when you feel stressed. Longer pauses can be taken throughout your day, such as when you are walking to lunch or driving home from work. Just walk or just drive. Don’t do anything else. You’ll be surprised what you might discover. It is always from the stillness that I have my most interesting, creative ideas. In fact, when I ask people where they get their best ideas, it is almost always in the middle of a pause.
Think about times when you could use a pause and set an intention to work them into your day. I’ll bet you’ll amazed at how refreshing they are.