Reflections on taking time to pause

In the early days of Fall, I sat across from a friend on a picnic bench outside a local coffee shop. The air was just crisp enough to still enjoy the outdoors with a light jacket tucked around my upper body and a warm beverage in hand. At some point, we’d have to end our conversation because she had a meeting there with someone else. We crammed as much fun and depth into the few minutes before us.

Her 9:45am arrived. We exchanged names and possibly a handshake. We said goodbye.

I had a little more time before my next appointment so I slipped inside the coffee shop, found an empty table, and opened up my journal. It felt good to not immediately jump deeply into something else, to pause.

Sometime after that, the same friend commented that she really liked how I took breaks in between things. Until then, I hadn’t thought of it as something I practiced with any sort of regularity enough to be noticed. And since then, I’ve done it with regularity enough for it to be noticed…at least by me.

And I absolutely love it.

Clinical studies probably reveal something well researched about regular pauses. I’ve not read them nor do I plan to. I’m confident that my own experience is enough.

There’s this inexplicable freedom that comes with the pause. But I should really try to explain it, right? It’s a sort of permission I give myself to be still which then allows me to be reflective–perhaps the real intention of stillness. Stillness for stillness sake eventually becomes laziness, no? (Can you tell that I’m production oriented?) But when the pause results in a deeper knowledge of self…ah hah! This is the moment.

Like the other morning when, after days of feeling gross and even taking a day off to rest, it finally dawned on me that what I had wasn’t some sickness that required a visit to the doctor but seasonal allergies. This clarity came when I chose stillness over a false productivity that typically emerges at about 9pm. I, not being a night owl, should really give up this thrust to accomplish all leftover, back-burner’d things at night. I’ve experienced such little night progress, you’d think I’d have recovered from this disillusioned state by now.

Thankfully, I’ve learned the beauty of the pause even during daylight and saved myself a $25 co-pay. Whether placed between meetings or at the end of the day, whether accompanied by actual heaven-ward prayers or a journal and pen, the stillness removes shoulder weight and clears the mind clutter.

These pauses can’t be scheduled, per se, because I’m not always sure of when one thing will end and another begin. But after experiencing several of them, I can more easily feel when they’re necessary. By letting them be, I’m less prone to spend more energy in spaces I think should relax me like beautifully curated Pinterest boards and IG accounts. The Scandinavian living room layout, while stunning, makes me want to see more and more and more. The flawless IG page only triggers feelings of insufficiency.  Consumption and comparison are tiring.

The pause refreshes.
The pause fills
The pause is writing out my thoughts.
The pause is parking the car in the driveway and looking out the window for a few minutes before heading into the house.
The pause is reviewing my to-do list.
The pause is writing someone a card.
The pause is drawing a picture on the card.
The pause isn’t ever too long, maybe 10 minutes or even less, at times.
The pause is usually in a very different gear from whatever I was just doing and whatever I’m going to be doing next.
The pause makes no demands.
The pause is not about perfection.
The pause is a change of pace.
The pause won’t need to be completed later.
The pause isn’t a less-involved piece of work.
The pause isn’t work.
The pause is sometimes play.
The pause is sometimes prayer.
The pause is enough for the time I have.

Join me. Breathe. Pause.

Amen.

(I write about a weekly pause here.)

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