Have you ever stopped to pause? Huh? Aren’t those one and the same?
To me, stopping is an abrupt cessation of motion, movement or activity. Deliberate, pre-meditated, devised. It’s a directive. Green – Go. Red – Stop.
A pause is rest. A space purposefully created to allow nothingness. To be open to being. For me, the pause is the space of self-reflection and self-inquiry.
On the mat, I teach students to pause between postures, or asanas, and flow to notice how they feel. To absorb the effects of moving. To observe the breath and collect energy, or prana.
In life, we pause between romantic relationships to heal from heartbreak, to examine behaviors and patterns. We pause between jobs to assess if we are truly fulfilling our soul’s desire or stuck in unconscious execution of society’s expectations. We can even take pause before we speak, asking ourselves if our words are truthful, necessary, kind and timely. The pause begs us to ask questions – to gain a richer understanding of ourselves and the yearnings of the soul.
Without the pause, our practice is mere exercise. Without the pause, our life charts its course on auto-pilot, routine and lack of inspiration.
Without it we are doomed to live a life dictated by someone or something else. Whether that be unconscious patterning or societal standards. Without the pause, we can never know what the spirit may have planned for us.
How beautiful it is to experience a pause in the mind. There is nothing quite like it. Ask any yogi, meditator or silence seeker. It’s the delicious taste of true freedom and peace.
In yoga, we can take pause after inhale or exhale to enhance the action or energy of a particular breath. A hold after inhale can enliven and inspire us as we draw in fresh oxygen and renewal. A hold after exhale emphasizes release, letting go and slowing down. You can even practice this off the mat and notice how your breath can energize you or calm an anxious mind.
The pause is powerful. It begs us to grow and change, and empowers us with the great gift of self-awareness.
It also presents a great challenge. It asks us to rise to what we could be. To be great. To be bold enough to act on what we may hear in the pause.
Our culture has seemingly rallied against the pause. Why? Because it’s easier to distract ourselves with texts, Facebook, 24×7 news reports and the details of other people’s lives. Because when we pause, we come face-to- face with that which makes us most uncomfortable. Ourselves.
We never know what we may find in the pause. In the dark and scary corners of our mind, we keep chaos covered in cobwebs. That stuff is safer there. We’ve become masters at the art of covering up the pieces of ourselves that, if brought into the light, bring with them shame, hurt, guilt, remorse, insecurity, doubt and fear.
The pause can be painful and get ugly. And it comes with no guarantees.
One thing I do know – as difficult as it may become, with more pause comes more truth, wisdom and clarity.
The final pause in yoga is savasana. Those last sweet moments of deep relaxation and release. In those long pauses, I’ve often received flashes of inspiration or insights.
Sadly, the final pause in life is its end. Death. Please don’t wait until then to feel the immense power that comes only from truly knowing and understanding yourself deeply. And the supreme joy of letting go.
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