The ability to pause gives us the possibility of choice, and the opportunity not to act out of habit. This type of pause is not just a temporary stop in the action, after which we continue exactly where we left off – like when you click the pause button on a video. It’s a pause that allows awareness of how we are in body and mind. Within that pause we can choose wisely the manner in which we wish to continue – or not continue at all! Of course this principle can be applied to the big decisions of our lives, as much as the ongoing details of the posture and tension habits that affect our every movement. This kind of pause is more akin to giving pause, defined, according to Websters, as “to cause to hesitate or reconsider.” I am especially drawn to the idea of giving yourself time to reconsider, i.e. to THINK, which inspired the title of this post, “Pause of Thought.” This is also the title of a workshop I am teaching in May, in which we’ll investigate different aspects of pausing. As I prepare our activities and explorations, it occurs to me that this kind of pausing can take three main forms:
The Long Pause
A deliberate long pause, that removes us in some way from regular activities, gives us a chance to refresh and restore ourselves. This could literally be a vacation, where we remove ourselves from our familiar environment, the pressures of work and daily life. Alternatively it could be a practice like meditation or Constructive Rest, in which we, for a certain amount of time, maybe 10-20 minutes, remove ourselves from our lives and allowing us to restore ourselves both mentally and physically.
Micro-pauses take place multiple times throughout the day, and are opportunities for us to take a moment or two to bring our awareness back to ourselves. I might pause like this as I work on the computer and give myself a little time to be aware of my breathing, or of my sit bones on the chair, or of my feet on the floor (you get the idea). The pause also gives me a chance to direct my thoughts in a way that promotes freedom of movement and release of excess tension.
The Active Pause
This might sound like an oxymoron, but I like to think of it as an internal (mental) pause which happens while doing an activity, and without any external sign that you have paused. It’s a way of creating of mental space which opens up the possibility of redirecting our thoughts in a more helpful way, even though you don’t literally stop. For instance, I often work with myself during my daily walks. I don’t stop walking, but mentally I take a pause to bring my awareness to my walking, to myself or to my surroundings. The pause brings me to the present and creates space for more helpful and constructive thoughts. It allows for choices in how I am moving (stiffly or freely) as I walk.
The Alexander Technique is brilliant at teaching us how to constructively use all these ways of pausing. We learn how to deliberately and mindfully pause so we can be present to the reality of the here and now. From this awareness we learn to direct our thoughts in ways that promote freedom from habit, giving us true choice in how we move through this world.
Do you give yourself time to pause? Can you think of times when you didn’t pause and reacted in a way you regret? When has pausing been useful to you? As always, I’d love to hear from you. Please leave your comments in the box below.
Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Pause for Thought Workshop
The Secret to Mindful Stress Relief
Saturday, May 17, 2014 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Delaware Center for Conscious Living
Click here for more information.