The Power of Pause
My clients and I often talk about other forms of meditation when the traditional, sit-on-a-zen cushion one is too much to bear. I tell them that the person who inspired me the most to meditate was a fellow graduate student at Santa Clara University. She was Muslim and, right in the middle of class every now and then, she would excuse herself, lay out of her mat and pray. It was no more than 10 minutes, she came back right away, but I always felt inspired and rejuvenated just watching her take that break. That was when I decided that maybe I couldn't do the hours of ZaZen that my favorite meditation teacher, Natalie Goldberg, did in the cold and under extenuating circumstances. But what I could do was pause.
This was my first foray into pausing. It is a beautiful book that celebrates the 7 rite of passages of time during the day. It starts at Day Break, Sunrise, Dawn etc. Each pause is accompanied with a reading, some poetry and a little meditation on what that time is about. I loved the idea of pausing and I especially loved the idea of pausing during certain times of the day. Mid-day typically gave me a refresher during my long afternoons and Evening Tide was a sweet way of reflecting on the day on my way home.
Traffic Light Meditation
This is one of my favorites that I believe if everyone did, it would reduce the road rage out on the roads. Every time the light turns red, to refrain from reaching for your iPhone, refrain from cursing at the universe, and instead, do breathing and welcome the pause. Take a deep slow breath as you wait for the light to change. Take as many breaths as the light will let you. Notice the light change, take another deep breath, change gears mindfully and proceed.
This is one way of turning the busiest room in the house into a sacred meditation hall. Imagine what would happen if we could train our kids to all pause and breathe each time someone used the microwave. Usually it is no more than 2 minutes, so it is the quintessential pause in the middle of the bustling kitchen activity. What if we synchronized that pause with a prayer of thanksgiving -- for the food that is being microwaved? Perhaps we would be actually taste and enjoy the food that comes out when it does.
This is not good dog training, but when I first got my puppy and we went on a sniffing walk, not a brisk walk, but a sniffing walk, I used to be so annoyed each time he paused at every tree and bush to make his mark. I grumbled about having a marker, I made a mental note to talk to the trainer about how to "cure" this bad habit, I felt a little guilty for not insisting that he learn that I am the boss of walks. But, these days, I have been walking with him with a leash around my waist, doing a meditative walk with my Insight Timer app on my iPhone. Every now and then, without fail, he would stop to mark a bush and jerk me to a halt. Instead of protesting it and wondering what Cesar Milan would do, I've decided to see him as my interval bell; hence signaling me to come to a standstill, pause and breathe. Each time, I am surprised by how indignant and irritated I get by being jerked to a standstill, how grateful I am when I do pause and how quickly I lose that peace when I start walking again.