In 2009, I engaged in a month-long yoga teacher training with Ana Forrest, known in the yoga world for her unique yoga style that helps students heal emotional trauma. Each morning at 6 am, we gathered for what Ana called yoga ceremony, an intense, two-hour class, the heat turned up to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. At any given moment in each class, you could hear someone experiencing emotional release, crying, shaking, releasing trauma from their body.

On the final day of our training, Ana gifted each of us with a T-shirt that read, Never waste a good trigger. 

What happens when you’re triggered?

A trigger is any stimuli that you see, hear, or otherwise sense in your environment. When you’re “triggered,” your nervous system detects a stimulus and sets off a chain of neurological and physiological reactions. Part of you unconsciously perceives the trigger as an opportunity to meet a need or a threat against their needs. They react and grab the wheel in an attempt to meet or protect a need.

All this happens in the split second before you’re even aware of the stimuli. As a result, you may not be able to explain why you’re feeling, thinking, or reacting the way you do. It can feel as if your reactions are happening to you instead of you actively doing what you’re doing.

When you react unconsciously, your actions are unlikely to meet your needs and may have unhelpful or even harmful consequences.

Now, how does this relate to getting clear?

The problem is, most people spend most of each day unconsciously reacting to the stimuli in their environments rather than consciously choosing their response. The steady stream of unconscious reactions keeps them stuck, unclear about what’s really going on, and unable to create the work-life they long for.

For example, let’s say you keep getting into a conflict with a colleague at work. They say something that you perceive to be disrespectful, your blood starts to boil, and either you say something nasty in response or turn away in disdain. You can’t tell whether what you need to do is find another job far away from this person or find a new way of responding.

Or perhaps you’re triggered by technology. You promise yourself that you’ll start turning off your computer an hour before bed, but there you are at 9:05 pm, unable to stop responding to email. You see an email from a client, a voice in your head says, Just one more! And you open the email. You can’t tell if you need a different job with fewer demands or if you need new email habits (or both).

It would be hard to know what you need to do in either situation unless you pause and reflect.

So, what does it mean to never waste a good trigger?

It means that each trigger is an opportunity to pause and notice parts of you who need healing and limiting beliefs that no longer serve you. No trigger is fun, but every trigger becomes an opportunity to choose a new way of being when you pause.

Noticing that you’re triggered is like waking up.

Pausing is like waking up.

The point is not to be awake all the time or to beat yourself up when you fall asleep. The point is to keep waking up. The more you wake up, the easier it becomes to wake up and choose a new response.

Each time you pause, you strengthen your ability to pause. Each time you pause, settle, discern what is needed, and consciously choose your response, you lay down new neural pathways. You build habits that help you make wise decisions in the future.

Angie’s Story

The challenge is that when it feels like life is charging at you, the mere notion of pausing can seem frivolous, something that only New Age self-help gurus have time for.

The good news is that you do not need to meditate for hours to benefit from a pause. Even a 30-second pause can make a huge difference.

No client has ever told me that taking time to pause detracted from other important tasks. Instead, they’re usually surprised that pausing seems almost miraculous to create more time. It makes their actions more efficient. Take my former client, Angie, for example.

Angie came to me needing a fast transformation. She was in charge of managing her region’s first recreational marijuana dispensary. She had to organize the purchase process for what she expected to be perhaps 3,000 customers in a single day, oversee the construction staff, and onboard 40 new employees at once. Her speaking pace mirrored the fast pace of her work, and as a result, employees sometimes had a hard time understanding her.

Angie and I only had a month to work before the dispensary opened. In our short time, she needed to learn to slow down internally to contend with the external speed. To do so, I encouraged Angie to take a quick pause each time she needed to respond to an employee or make a decision.

She immediately started practicing, and the practice worked wonders. Months later, she wrote me this letter:

By the end of the month of practicing the pause, I knew in my bones that I was up for the challenge. During the media whirlwind of opening day (six different news outlets!) a few employees even asked me how I remained so calm and in control. 

I am a different leader than I would have been. I learned how to trust myself, slow way down and pause (even in the midst of rapid change), and stop second-guessing myself. Many months later, I am excited to say that I am still a person who pauses.

Practice: Micro-Pausing

I invite you to commit to a regular practice of micro-pausing. To help yourself remember, I suggest setting a timer at regular intervals throughout the day. When the timer goes off, pause, breathe, and settle your body.

When you do this, you will begin to notice a newfound sense of groundedness and resilience that helps you navigate even the most challenging moments. Even just three minutes a day works wonders. I invite you to try this now:

  1. Set a timer for three minutes.
  2. And . . . pause.
  3. Notice your breathing.
  4. If you feel an urge to do something else, notice the urge.
  5. If you feel a lot of emotion, notice how you feel.
  6. If your mind wanders, notice your thoughts.
  7. Just pay attention to whatever happens. Don’t try to change anything that’s going on within you.

Ready? Pause. Once you’ve got the simple pause down, I invite you to add the practice of settling your body to your pause.

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Much love,



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