As humans, we have the capacity and the birthright to experience time in a saner fashion. —Joanna Macy, Coming Back to Life

How many times a day do you feel stressed out? How often do you feel like you’re in a hurry, rushing to get to your next task as fast as possible? When you feel constantly pressured to keep moving forward, it can seem almost impossible to step back and reflect on where you’re going. Not only impossible. Taking a break can seem frivolous or ridiculous, something that only New Age self-help gurus have time for.

But, if you don’t take time to pause and reflect on where you’re going, how can you know if you’re headed in the right direction? You can’t. It’s a cliche because it’s true.

I invite you to consider, just for a moment, a different way to think about the pause.

What if pausing were a radical act?

We talk about “making time” as if time were a commodity that was increasingly scarce. Technology has hijacked our collective attention to the point where many people look at their phones more often than their loved ones’ faces. Our culture and systems endorse the race to produce, optimize, and consume. When you get caught up in all this hurry, your body can end up feeling tense and unwell, your mind becomes less able to focus, and your heart disconnects. In the midst of all this craziness, pausing to reflect is a radical act.

Choosing to pause is one of the most potent steps to making better choices, coming up with novel solutions to challenging problems, and increasing your ability to be present both at work and at home. And, it doesn’t cost anything.

In bullfighting, a bull becomes more dangerous (from the matador’s perspective) when he can find a place of refuge and renewal in the arena.

Throughout the fight, the bull returns to this place to find safety and reclaim his strength. In Spanish, this place and inner state are called the bull’s querencia. If the bull remains reactive, enraged, and afraid, the matador has control. But if the bull finds his querencia, he taps into his power and becomes almost impossible to kill. Pausing, centering in your body, and reflecting on where you’re at renews your power and strength just like the bull’s.

Our need for pause is like a yin-yang symbol. Forward-movement and no-movement need each other.

With too much stillness, you’d never reach the visions that are calling you. If you only paused, you’d stagnate. On the other hand, if you just moved forward and never paused, you couldn’t resource yourself or sustain the changes you’re working to bring forth. A pause, by its nature, doesn’t last forever. But it does make the path forward so much clearer and your steps lighter when you return and re-engage with your work.

Now, even if you see my point, you may be wondering to yourself…

Okay, so how exactly is anyone supposed to find time to stop when their day-to-day is so frantic? Can I just wave a magic wand and suddenly have a whole extra day each week? How about finding some time hidden under the couch cushions?

I’m sorry. Trust me, if I could magically hand you a magic potion or a wand or an envelope with a whole bunch of time in it, I would. I promise. But I, like you, have yet to find the magic spell that will make all your time woes miraculously disappear.

That said, I have found something that makes pausing possible.

Drumroll, please… conscious choice. Yes, conscious choice might sound less sexy than some genie in a bottle. But it’s so much more real. And, it works.

What I’m talking about is making your mind up, once and for all, to make pausing a priority. I encourage my clients to pause for ten-ish minutes every day, including time for centering, self-reflection, and taking in the good.

If you’re game to experiment this week, I invite you to try this—

Commit to taking three-minutes to pause every day for the next week. I highly recommend doing this at the same time each day to help make it habitual. It can also help to pause before a daily activity you engage in like washing the dishes or brushing your teeth or getting into the car. Set a timer for three minutes (feel free to take more time, if you’d like!). And, then, simply notice the movement of your breath and how you feel in your body. Like I mentioned above, we could layer several other practices on top of this simple pause. But, for now, paying attention to your breath and how you feel in your body is a great place to start.

I invite you to try out this practice right now, in this moment. Simply:

  • Set a timer for three minutes.
  • And… pause, paying attention to how you feel in your body. Ready, set, pause!

…It’s wild how long three minutes can feel, eh?

In fact, I’ve never had a client complain that their pausing practice took time away from other important activities. In fact, they’re usually shocked when they realize that devoting time to pausing seems to add extra time to their days.

I wish you so much ease and calm as you integrate this practice into your life. And, may I ask a favor? If you have a friend or two who really deserve a break, I’d be so grateful if you’d pass this along to them. I think they would be, too. Thanks!

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