Invoking the Power of the Pause

Six Ways I Find the Happy Place in My Brain

“One of the simplest and most powerful tools we have as individuals is the ability to pause. Think about it. When you press pause on a machine, it stops. When we pause as humans, we begin. Pausing creates a space where one can see clearly” —Dov Seidman

The last few weeks have been noisy. I feel like I am surrounded by external noises and my own internal noise, conversations of what ifs, when, how? In spite of an intentional attempt at not watching the news, or turning on the television, I find my mind filled with noise.  

I found myself thinking about my early years in the United States. My four-year old daughter was learning the piano. She practiced on a keyboard at home and as I oversaw her piano lessons, I remember reciting the music notes out loud with her.

“Do, re mi, pause,” we sang. “Pause, Natasha, there’s a rest there,” I remember pointing out to her as she tried to continue playing the music.

“Why do I have to pause?” came her reply.

“Because there’s a rest in the music,” I said, pointing to the sheet of music.

As I think about her innocent question and my literal answer, I’m reminded of the beauty in that pause, the value in the rest, the making of music in that pause. I wish I had had the wisdom to give her some more answers and maybe inculcate a practice of pausing both for her and myself.

Our political scene, the COVID-19 pandemic, tensions around racism, equality and justice, the climate-related challenges—all these have added to the busyness and the time poverty that we were already experiencing. We work in a world which values “busyness!”

Taking time for a pause maybe perceived as a sign of weakness. But taking a break replenishes the mental and emotional energy associated with working hard, thus improves work performance and boosts energy.

If only we could take time to pause, rest, allow ourselves to reflect, remind ourselves of our own strength, of our healing community, we would find the ability to reframe and reset our thinking, recharge and replenish ourselves, recover and even rejoice.

How can we take time to pause, to recharge ourselves in real time, how can we slow down, quiet the noise of the world and replenish our own well-being without feeling guilty or selfish?

Here are six rituals I’ve found that help me replenish:

  1. I have to make taking a break into a ritual, even if it means to just take a few deep breaths. I schedule me time on my calendar which serves as a reminder.

  2. I have learnt to recognize the visceral reactions in my body when I am tense or not feeling centered, when I start wringing and clasping my hands, when I start massaging the back of my neck or when I have the urge to scream.

  3. Intentional attention to acknowledge these reactions and redirect my thoughts to my stored “happy place” in my brain helps me calm down and even smile and laugh. Depending on what I am in the mood for, my happy place can be pictures of my family, positive verses or quotes, passage from a scripture and even at times a punching bag. This also helps me reframe my goals and refocus.

  4. I have to revisit the expectations I have from others and myself.

  5. Recognizing when I am Hungry (or too hungry with cravings), or Angry or Lonely or Tired reminds me to H.A.L.T and take a pause. 

  6. Offering gratitude is vital for mental, emotional and spiritual replenishing—and reflection is crucial—so each day I reflect on the silver linings in my life.

Most important and valuable is that the intentional practice of these rituals reminds me to respect and be kind to myself and others, which leaves me with Happy Thoughts!!! There indeed is immense power and beauty in taking a pause.

How is the coronavirus and civil unrest around racism changing the way you think of self-care, community and resilience? As this challenging time unfolds, I am posting a quote on this blog with a reflection prompt. Please join in the conversation here or on Twitter or Instagram with your thoughts or what you are doing for self-care and care of others. My book explores such ideas too: Resilient Threads: Weaving Joy and Meaning into Well-Being.