The first pause happened in Maine. My husband Coby and I had just spent a week with his family in Cape Cod. We were on our way to Minnesota to spend a couple of weeks with my family and friends preparing for and celebrating our wedding. In between these two fun-filled, energetic, family oriented trips, we decided to take a much needed break, camping in the backwoods of Maine… Pause.
The second pause happened when we were hiking in Acadia National Park in Maine. One of our first of many hiking paths that week was the Beehive Trail, rated to be an intermediate hike. We expected it to be difficult at times, but there was a point at which we were not sure where we were going and every step was getting steeper, more challenging and scarier. We were truly rock climbing (which is something neither of us had done before). At some point…actually at the exact moment that I was going to do something way above my skill level…Coby said to me, “why don’t we wait a minute”. So stopping where we were, we each sat down in silence. Our pause was interrupted by voices coming up the same mountainside. The sound of their voices and feet indicated that they were passing through on a lower trail. We realized we were way to high and the trail was too dangerous to be the outlined course. So now we were certain that we had somehow gotten off course. Before we began our back track down the steep cliff side, we took a pause within our pause. We stopped to express our gratitude to the universe for showing us the way and to ourselves for listening to what the universe had to offer. Making our way home, we reveled in the knowledge that guidance is always available to us…but sometimes we must stop and ask, wait and listen….Pause.
During our time in Maine, I started to see the way in which pauses affect our lives. The power of the pause is that it can serve as a shift, a directional change, a point of stillness or simply a break from the norm. It can signify the time before an initiation or the time after a completion. It can bookmark where we left off or where we will begin. The pause can be the place between the old and the new, the past and the future. In essence, the pause is the recognition of the present moment.
There are so many ways to pause, and it is in the pause that the path becomes clear. The breath is the most well used pause I can think of. If ever you find yourself in a challenging situation, what is the quickest way to shift the energy? A few deep, conscious breaths. The breath triggers the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps to immediately relax the body and the mind. The breath is the space between…the space that connects heart and mind, spirit and matter, being and doing, life and death. Breath is the space between words (often a savior when used wisely). The moment the breath comes in to help quiet the mind, the soul can be heard, and the voice becomes a verbal expression of the soul. Take a deep breath…notice the shift, the connection, the clarity….Pause.
Then there’s the pause between the breaths, the gap that is the void between the inhalation and exhalation, the space between the spaces. If the breath itself is a pause, and a reminder to be present, then the space between the breaths is the pause between the pauses, and is a reminder that we can be present in every moment…even in the moments between the moments. In Sanskrit, the term for this pause is Stambha. It is the pause at the top of the inhalation and the pause at the bottom of the exhalation…the natural stillpoint between the breaths. Here, the breath is not held, but it is briefly suspended while in motion…like the ends of a pendulum swing. When acknowledged and used as a part of pranayama, the Stambha becomes a great tool for awareness. It is an opportunity to witness the stillness. I like to practice observing every part of the breath, and then observing the spaces between each breath. It is a great way to keep the mind focused and present. Try it…Pause.
How about the space between the thoughts? In its simplest form, this is meditation. The difficulty is in knowing whether you are actually thinking or not. Are you in the gap…the pause? When we first start meditating, we are often surprised with how many thoughts are happening at any given moment, because most of the time we are thinking, we are not even aware that we are thinking. And although we may “think” we are not thinking, we are often still engaged in the more subtle layers of thought. It is important to be quiet enough to hear the thoughts or the lack of thoughts…the stillness. With practice, the space between thoughts becomes longer, and that protracted inner stillness is what we call meditation. This is the most precious pause I know…no thought…no mind…Pause.
I often talk to guests of Present Moment Retreat about using their time with us as a pause. As it is a break away from the norm, it becomes a perfect opportunity for self reflection and exploration. What a gift to give ourselves a week or two to truly experience being present. When immersed in a naturally healing environment surrounded by the ocean and the mountains, we tend to drop in and let go more than we usually do in our day-to-day lives. This is the point of a “retreat”. To pause, to nourish, to reflect upon where we have been, to see how we have been living our lives, to explore what we may be ready to release, and to expand into the potential of what we might be prepared to create from here. Even if you are not on “retreat” right now, you can take a moment to draw your awareness inward and reflect upon where you are in this stage of your life (and then come to Present Moment Retreat when you can)…Pause.
How can we take more pauses or at least notice those pauses that already exist for us, and cherish them? Notice all the possibilities for a pause in your life. For example, I am in a pause right now as I write. I am taking a pause…a cool breath in the mountains of Zirahuen, Mexico while assimilating the last couple of months and preparing for what is next to come on this magnificent journey of life. I am using the new scenery, silence and plant life here to reconnect with nature in a different way than I do on the beach. Coming to the mountains has become one of my ways of pausing, integrating and preparing. I am truly enjoying and consciously aware of this very moment. Pause…..