We live in a modern world that is always connected and on the move. We’re urged to aim high, produce more, and think faster. Without question, most of us simply follow suit, matching the speed of those around us, feeling tied to society’s demanding pursuit of getting it all done. Perpetual busy-ness has become the new normal and checking off each responsibility on our “to-do” list, one at a time, a gauge of success.
What we don’t often see, while we’re on this wild ride of productivity, is just how much life quality we’re sacrificing. It’s not until we step off, having a moment to ground ourselves in the present moment, that we realize we’ve been simply skimming the surface. We get so caught up in the overwhelm and sense of urgency, that we lose sight of a bigger picture and deeper perspective– barely noticing that we’re on an imagined timeline that might not be in service of living our best life.
Yoga teacher, Jillian Pransky says we’ve become a society of zippers. “It’s like we’re a motorboat noisily zipping around, trying to find a place that is quiet, peaceful, and still. We’re solving problems, responding to demands, preparing for what’s next, improving ourselves. But we’re just making more waves and noise wherever we go. It counters all of our ambitious conditioning, but true freedom comes when we throttle back the motor and come naturally into stillness.”
Because I’ve firmly planted this seed of awareness in my mind–that there is more to life than zipping around–I find it necessary to honor and acknowledge it each time I feel pulled too far from center. I do so with a simple practice that allows me to land in the here-and-now of my experience: I rest in the transformative power of pausing. Over the years, I’ve discovered how little pauses, conscious moments of slowing my life down, can offer huge rewards.
Pausing serves as my intention to live deliberately–to feel into and appreciate the gifts that are tucked into each day, to remember there is something beautiful and profound beneath the chaos of doing all the things. It ensures that the inherent goodness and beauty of life don’t get steam-rolled by the pace of modern living. I always remind myself that a simple pause is one of my strongest allies and I always have the choice to pull it into my experience. Each time I do so, I hear the wisdom of author, Viktor Frankl, who says choosing our own way of doing things is “the last of the human freedoms” and that the choices we make hold power to determine whether we take control of our lives or “become a plaything to circumstance”.
I’d rather be in the driver’s seat…and pausing secures my position.
Sometimes a pause is a simple, short-term stop in the action. I think of these as my “inner pauses” to reassess, to reflect, to be still. It allows me to get present–to become grounded in my body, access a quieter mind, and orient myself with my surroundings. After a few moments of stepping away, taking a break in the action, I’m able to precede with greater awareness–less reactionary and more responsive. Pausing is a conscious space-maker between moments where my mind-body is signaled to power down, slow down, and reset. My devices go off, I find a quiet place, and I breathe.
Transitions are a great time to incorporate these small windows of coming home to yourself: upon waking and going to bed, leaving and returning home, before and after important conversations with family members, prior to initiating or responding to a text or phone call. This allows us the space to process the energy we want to bring to our next experience. One of my most important daily “inner pauses” is directly after our family morning hustle. Once I get my child dressed, fed, out the door, and on a bus, I find my favorite chair. In this space, I regroup and plan my day.
Another great time is when we’re in the thick of mental overload. Sometimes, I’m overstimulated from multi-tasking or rushing. Other times, I’m simply overthinking. It’s exactly in these moments when we think pausing is impossible and the last thing we should do, that we need them most. Because I know my tendency to hyperfocus when I’m writing, which can lead to burnout and exhaustion, I set a timer at regular intervals throughout my workday. I’ve learned to love my quiet cup of tea, on the front porch–a time when I stop to appreciate my world and honor my needs. It’s done wonders for my spirit and ability to think clearly when I step back to the screen.
Starting with these small moments of pause will lay the foundation for taking back your time and regaining some of what often gets lost in the inevitable shuffle of life. In time, you may find yourself wanting pauses that are more spacious, and offering them to yourself with less guilt. Perhaps, carving out an entire day, putting obligations aside, and making that relaxing trip to the countryside to surprise your aging grandparents. Setting your phone to Do Not Disturb and building forts with your children all day rather than running errands. Taking off a random Wednesday and walking yourself to the park with a blanket and a good book.
If you find yourself feeling like a victim of circumstance and schedules, feeling starved for the space to get quiet and still, always remember that you have a choice. Ask yourself, “What is my next right step?” This is the perfect time to enjoy a pause. Simple, yet powerful medicine.
We’d love to hear how incorporating this practice affects the quality of your day, your week, your month. Please let us know, as you incorporate these into your life.