The Pause

Sometimes when the preschoolers I work with get going a little too fast I say to them, “pause”. Not stop. Just pause. I encourage them to take a breath and notice what they are doing, how they are doing, what’s happening around them. To be present just for a moment. To pause.

I love their wild abandon, but sometimes that pause is needed…just for a moment. To get centered. Grounded.

As adults we need that pause also. To become grounded. Centered.

“Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day
is the rest we take between two deep breaths.”
Etty Hillesum

We are not always aware of our breath. Or that little pause many of us have right before an inhale. That little moment.

pond at springwater

(pond at Springwater Center for Meditative Contemplation)

If you do yoga or meditate you know this moment, this sublime pause. There are times when it seems to last a long time. At other times, it is brief, but still present.

There are some days when I get  caught up in the “things” of life.  I get saddened by news in the world. It weighs heavily on my heart. I have to remind myself to pause. To be aware of that moment between breaths so I can “come back to” this one moment. Not the previous moment that may harbor regret or confusion, doubt or pain. Even if there was joy and happiness, that is now a memory and no longer in the present.  Not the next moment which is already heavy with anticipation, assumptions, expectations and probability. As Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us:

“The past is gone, but the future is not yet here,
and if we do not go back to ourselves
in the present moment,
we cannot be in touch with life.”

Often we are ruled by feelings, emotions and desires. We are always checking in with ourselves to see how we are feeling. To linger over a hope, dream or wish. We get lost in emotions. These weigh us down. Some days it feels as we are spiraling down to a dispirited place. We drift into wondering if we are happy, content, satisfied. For many of us we come up with things that would make us happier, more content and more satisfied. It feels as if we never are able to quite obtain that which we believe would make us feel better. Our emotions grab hold and our feelings, the physical reactions..tired, sore, stiff, butterflies in the stomach, tightness in our muscles, partner up with mercurial emotions and we may deflate and feel dragged down. Someone else always seems to have something that we believe would make us feel better if we had it too. These reactions, responses repeat and cycle over and over again.

And we forget. We forget that if we could pause and feel that moment in between each breath, we would become grounded. Centered. In the moment. That pause where there silence between thoughts. It is the space where the mind stands still. No thoughts exist in this space. Here you can experience awareness of the present moment. From this moment of awareness comes inner wisdom and joy arises.

“Discover inner space by creating gaps in the stream of thinking.
Without those gaps, your thinking becomes repetitive, uninspired, devoid of any creative spark,
which is how it still is for most people on the planet.”
A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle

“Slip into the gap.
This means to center yourself in that silent space between thoughts,
to go into the silence.”
Deepak Chopra

In this pause, this gap, this silence, we can find wisdom and inner joy.

Am I able to do this? Not often. I work at it. I try and try again. Each time I remember to pause and be present in the moment, it is easier the next time. The impulse to pause comes more often. I do feel grounded. More centered. There is a wisdom that grows and brings with it an understanding that I can control my thinking, reactions and responses. It is possible to have a clear moment where I can experience stillness, gratitude and feel and hear my breath. I do feel my aliveness, recognize and honor my love and compassion for myself and others.

It doesn’t always help when I hear or watch the news where there is incredible and unimaginable human suffering and violence. Still, within that pause I do become more aware of the connection I have to all living things. If I cannot stop a war, I can stop my own hurtful indignation towards others. I can check my anger and exasperation. I can turn down annoyance, impatience and resentment. I cannot stop hunger and lack of fundamental needs of people around the world, but I can check my own consumption and collecting of “stuff” I don’t use or need.

I cannot, even with pausing to be mindful and aware of all there is to remedy and improve in the world, bring those changes about on my own. I can commit to bringing no suffering to others. I can commit to causing no harm to others.

Again,

…”and if we do not go back to ourselves
in the present moment,
we cannot be in touch with life.”

Close your eyes. Breathe in and find that little pause. Become grounded and centered. Know yourself. Know that there is only this one moment. Be in touch with life.

 

 

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“HUMAN”

I don’t have a blog post ready for this week. For good reasons. Being with family and friends and enjoying the breath taking beauty of fall.

fall yellow

So, I ask you to watch these short clips from the film “HUMAN”.

“What is it that makes us human?  Is it that we love, that we fight?  That we laugh ? Cry?  Our curiosity ? The quest for discovery ? Driven by these questions, filmmaker and artist Yann Arthus-Bertrand spent three years collecting real-life stories from 2,000 women and men in 60 countries. Working with a dedicated team of translators, journalists and cameramen, Yann captures deeply personal and emotional accounts of topics that unite us all; struggles with poverty, war, homophobia, and the future of our planet mixed with moments of love and happiness.”

This is a challenge to you. Instead of watching the news or re-runs, or Game of Thrones, The Voice or House of Cards, watch these. These are some of the “interviews”:

(They are only a few minutes long although the “running time ” says differently. At the end of each there is a link to the movie, which is worth watching.)

We are, all of us, human.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4GX6a2WEA1Q  Jose from Uruguay

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=afvN6se3Yug  Love From The Most Unlikely Places

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iX_ABahJFto  No crops, no food, no wood, no hope

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AUD0WJWbLJk  Mounira from Jordan

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JCEKzeGI6m4  Aida from Senegal

You Are Sitting On A Pot of Gold

Ahhhh, the ego.  You know Ego… very self-centered, arrogant, self important. Ego finds things like power, control, authority and position as motivating triggers. Ego drapes us in false-pride. Ego is forever judging. Ego believes itself to always be right and everything else as wrong. The length it goes to in order to convince you of this is impressive.

Dr. Wayne Dyer says “No one has ever seen the face of ego. It is like a ghost that we accept as a controlling influence in our lives. I look upon the ego as nothing more than an idea that each of us has about ourselves. The ego is only an illusion, but a very influential one. Letting the ego-illusion become your identity can prevent you from knowing your true self. Ego, the false idea of believing that you are what you have or what you do, is a backwards way of assessing and living life.”

And, “The ego-idea has been with us ever since we began to think. It sends us false messages about our true nature. It leads us to make assumptions about what will make us happy and we end up frustrated. It pushes us to promote our self-importance while we yearn for a deeper and richer life experience. It causes us to fall into the void of self-absorption again and again, not knowing that we need only shed the false idea of who we are.”

Sogyal Rinpoche in The Tibetan Book of the Dead writes by way of describing ego : “Two people have been living in you all of your life. One is the ego, garrulous, demanding, hysterical, calculating; the other is the hidden spiritual being, whose still voice of wisdom you have only rarely heard or attended to.”

This ego self has a driving purpose to be seen in a positive light. Always. This ego self will work endlessly to disavow itself of any responsibility it has for any negative outcome. Ego is not responsible. Ever.

As an alternative and a means of balance, there is the idea of the quiet ego.

This is the idea that says our sense of well being is about transcending, not enhancing the self. This is the path to contentment and that elusive sense of inner peace we all longingly search for. This is the way to a lasting happiness.

Jack Bauer, Heidi Wayment, and Kateryna Sylaska are researching the idea of the quiet ego. “The volume of the ego is turned down so that it might listen to others as well as the self in an effort to approach life more humanely and compassionately.”

According to the above researchers “quiet ego consists of four interconnected facets: detached awareness, inclusive identity, perspective-taking, and personal growth. These four characteristics all contribute to having a general stance of balance and growth toward the self and others.”

I want balance and growth towards the self and OTHERS. How about you?

So, what does this mean?

“Detached Awareness” is when the quiet ego speaks up and reminds us to be mindful and aware of what we are doing, of what is happening around us. The person with a quiet ego is focused on the present moment with no judgment or preconceived ideas of how things should be. We put this quality to the test when we rush through activities, do things automatically without paying much attention to them.

“Inclusive Identity” presents itself in a person with a quiet ego as being cooperative and compassionate. They possess a strong connection with all living things, all people…strangers, people of other ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds, there is no “other” to a person with a quiet ego. The other end of this spectrum would be doing things only for yourslef, the “what’s in it for me?” thought process.

“Perspective Taking” is about the proverbial “put yourself in the other person’s shoes and walk a mile.” It’s about imagining yourself going through what the other person is going through. It is about listening to and hearing the other side of the story with no judgment. For some this is difficult. It is their perspective that matters and the other person’s views are “wrong”, “not of significance” or “irrelevant”.

“Personal Growth” is about allowing and working towards life being about learning, changing and growing. It is about new experiences that challenge what we think about ourselves and the world. It is about stepping outside of what we are familiar and comfortable with. It is about the fluid experience and not about the value judgement of the end result.

When we experience quiet ego we have healthy self esteem because we acknowledge our limitations. There is no need to be defensive about who we are. Our well being is balanced through having contributing traits like humility, authenticity, open thinking, valuing the present moment, resilience, self compassion, satisfaction with our life.

Listen to your quiet ego…see the world as a whole. Learn to see the oneness, the inter-connectedness that is everywhere. We are all human. We all share the same emotions, struggles, life events. We will all die. If our thoughts are rooted in love and compassion rather than pride, power or attachment, our true self is thriving and not ego.

“But I’ll tell you what hermits realize.
If you go off into a far, far forest and get very quiet,
you’ll come to understand that you’re connected with everything.”
~ Alan Watts

As Dr. Dyer says, we don’t have to accept the ghost called ego to be the controlling force in our life.  We don’t have to perpetuate the idea that ego is something that rules us and is difficult to quiet.  It is possible to quiet ego so that, as Sogyal Rinpoche teaches, we can hear the still voice of wisdom instead.

rainbow(Ithaca NY)

Each and every day, all day long we are offered true gifts and are capable of offering our true self to others. This is our treasure. Treasure to both receive and give. The challenge for many of us is to open the door for quiet ego to come in to our lives and guide us so we have the presence of mind and awareness of how rich and blessed we are.

“We are like Tolstoy’s fabled beggar who spent his life sitting on a pot of gold,
begging for pennies from every passerby,
unaware that his fortune was right under him the whole time.

Your treasure—your perfection–is within you already.
But to claim it, you must leave the busy commotion of the mind
and abandon the desires of the ego and enter into the silence of the heart.”
Elizabeth Gilbert