How do we live well amidst the noise and busyness of our day-to-day lives? How do we experience fulfillment and meaning? It can feel like we are always on the go from one thing to the next. Our lives can be full of distraction with so many things competing for our attention. We may feel that we never have enough time.
One of my recent practices has been to pause in between things. Rather than go right from one activity to the next, I stop and pause. I notice the pull to be full speed ahead and I notice what it feels like to simply be and breathe for a few moments. Sometimes it only takes a few breaths for me to begin to slow down.
In her book, Wisdom Distilled from the Daily: Living the Rule of St. Benedict Today, Joan Chittister uses the monastic term statio, which she describes as "the practice of stopping one thing before we begin another; the time between times; and the desire to do consciously what [one] might do mechanically*." I have carried this practice with me over the last several weeks. It feels like one of the most important things I can do.
In the absence of this practice, I jump from one thing to the next with no "in between time." If I continue through a whole day in that manner, then, before I know it, the day is gone and I do not what I have done or where I was. I feel disconnected, lost and empty.
Coming Home to the Here and Now
When I slow down and bring my awareness to the present moment, I have the opportunity to connect to the here and now. I connect to myself in a deeper way and, in that place, also feel how deeply connected I am to the world around me.
The reason, for me, why the pausing is so important is because without it, I lose a sense of myself. When I am busy working or in a group of people, I tend to disappear. I disconnect from myself and from the ground. In that place, it can be hard to remember that I would even want to pause. I can forget why I would ever care to slow down and take a moment to breathe and be.
However, if I have the intention to pause and I make that part of my daily practice, weaving it into my awareness and my experience of each day, then I am more likely to pause even when I do not quite feel like it. In those moments, I pause because I set the intention to do so and in the pause, I begin to come back to myself and remember why I need this practice.
Sometimes when I pause, I begin to feel all the uncomfortable things within me that I had been avoiding feeling. When I can meet myself with care and compassion there, too, something shifts and opens and I begin to reconnect with myself and the present moment. One of my instructors at Hartford Family Institute, Naomi Lubin-Alpert, recently described it this way: the more we notice where we are and refrain from giving ourselves a hard time, the more we come home to ourselves in that moment. The practice of pausing reminds me to come home to myself in the present moment.
Our lives are not meant to be lived as if some final destination out there and further along is the goal. Our lives happen in the here and now, in our daily routines and personal interactions. If we are not careful, we miss it. What is before us now, today? What can I bring presence and awareness to in this moment?
During the last several weeks, I have been saying to myself, "I am living my life now. It is already happening." Then I feel myself slow down and live more in this day and this moment.
In the pause between things, I come back into now and I come back home to me. In those moments, I have a chance to remember I am already okay. I am alive and breathing and here. In those moments, I reconnect to the bigger picture and to what matters. I have a chance to quiet the constant chatter and be still. I connect to the here and now and All That Is. When I bring that into my day, I feel a greater sense of fullness and meaning.
I invite you to try it, here and now. Before you go on to the next thing, what would it be like to pause? Notice your breath. Notice if you can feel your feet. What is your experience in this moment? Can you bring compassion to yourself wherever you are? If not, what would it be like to not give yourself a hard time about that?
As you try on this experiment of pausing, do you notice anything shift? Do you feel more connected or begin to slow down? Does something else happen?
What would you notice and what would you feel if you paused throughout your day?
* Chittester, Joan. (1996) Wisdom Distilled from the Daily: Living the Rule of St. Benedict Today. New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers.