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.


…”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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