The Power of the Pause

           “Be still and know that I am God.” –Psalm 46:10,

        “Strive for continuous improvement, instead of perfection.”—Kim Collins

        I was reading through a book when I ran across the line, “pause, feel, reflect, and renew intention.”  While this phrase was directed towards how to teach yoga, the words jumped out at me. I looked away from my book and closed my eyes, internalizing the phrase, “pause, feel, reflect, and renew intention.”  There was something more to this than teaching yoga.

        Looking out my family room window, I noticed the willow trees with their new brightly green leaves still not fully developed.  I took in my neighbor’s ornamental pear trees, dotted with emerging pinkish, white blossoms. The grass covering both of our yards, though still filled with brown patches, was noticeably more green— so vivid and brilliant.

 

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The brown patches are still visible from the seasonal pause, but the grass is beginning to green up–thanks to the pause.

 

        Next, I heard the robins trilling in celebration of the cessation of several days of steady spring rain.  Their celebratory songs were layered with enthusiasm and optimism. Listening to their calming vocalizations, I glanced towards our weeping mulberry tree.

        Earlier in the day, my husband, John, had observed one of two old nests in the tree had been knocked out.  In it’s a place, a mockingbird was building a new nest. I paused for a moment watching the bird dart to and fro from tree to ground, bits of branches and yard detritus dangling from its mouth.  Then, it would pause; cock its head from one side to the next, then echo back to the robins’ song.

 

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The mockingbird nest in our weeping mulberry tree–still visible due to the tree’s seasonal rest.

       

     Pause, feel, reflect, and renew intention.

        As I took in the signals of spring revival, I could not help but recall how bare this same view had been during the winter season.  Nature seemed to pause during December, January, and most of February. Yet during this hiatus, trees, shrubs, grasses, and other plant life, were, in actuality, taking time to renew from the inside—all the while maintaining incessant respiration–breath.  Their intention was to root down a little deeper in order to prepare for new growth; and so should we.

 

In spite of all of the bare ground, branches, and shrubs, internal renewal, linked to continual respiration, is still occurring.       

      Our lives are full of busyness.  Calendars booked. Workdays overscheduled.   From early morning to late evening, and from weekday to weekend, our tendency is to go, go, go.  And if we are not busy, we often fail to appreciate the gift we have been given. Instead, we complain, “I’m bored;” “I don’t know what to do with myself;” or, “I feel guilty, lazy, or afraid I have forgotten something,” to name a few.   Free time, it seems, does not match society’s image of the, “perfect multi-tasker.”

 

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Our daughter, Madelyn, taking a pause out of her busy college schedule.      

      

       Pause, feel, reflect, and renew intention.

        Does constant busyness truly reflect God’s intention for us?  If Divine Providence provides built-in rest time for the natural world, my guess is that humans need this time too.  After all, even God rested as described in the book of Exodus; and thereby, we were likewise commanded to also rest on the Sabbath. However, what about day-to-day life?  What would happen if we brought a bit of the Sabbath day pause/reflection into our daily routine?

 

We can pause, feel, reflect and renew with our dog, while sitting outside, or even before a meal.  Regardless of where we choose to “pause,” the point is improvement not perfection.     

         

          Years ago, I was part of a women’s book study group.  One of the books we read had an entire chapter devoted to the notion of a daily practice of breath prayer.  Its intention was a short prayer or petition that is whispered throughout the day as a way of praying without ceasing.

        Breathing in, we were instructed to say one phrase; and, breathing out, we were to say another phrase—all of which was tied to a personal/spiritual goal(s).  Examples include: Breathing In: “Be still. Breathing Out: “And know I am God;” or, Breathing In: “Guide me” Breathing Out: “to a greater purpose.” There are certainly endless combinations and possibilities.  While I found it impossible to pray in this manner all day, I did benefit from the practice of starting my day with five or so minutes of a breath prayer, and then, throughout the day intentionally coming back to that same prayer.

 

Looking at this tree from afar, it appears to have no new growth.  However, when you get a closer look, the internal growth from the seasonal pause of rooting into its source, is slowly emerging–and, so it is when we pause regularly and turn inwardly.       

         

          Pause, feel, reflect, and renew intention.

        Similarly, during a yoga class, participants are often encouraged at the beginning of class to close their eyes, focus on their breath, and set an intention.  This is considered the anchor of the practice. The teachers I have experienced periodically remind students to return to their breath and intention as the class progresses.  In fact, if a movement or pose becomes too difficult or challenging, students are typically instructed to pause, notice their feelings; and if needed, rest on their knees, head down, eyes closed, while focusing on their breath and personal intention until they feel ready to join back in.  Additionally, at the end of class, participants are once again asked to pause, close their eyes, feel, reflect, and renew their intention before leaving class. Like the breath prayer, most yoga classes unite a purposeful pause with an intentional reflection, and link it to the act of respiration.

        Therefore, why not take time each day to incorporate a purposeful pause that links focused breathing to a prayer or personal intention?  In fact, why not attempt to incorporate it two, or more, times, per day, such as, at the end of the workday, and again at bedtime, or in correlation with each meal eaten?  What benefits might be reaped from the simple act of pausing?

 

       

          Pause, feel, reflect, and renew intention.

         May we allow the surrounding spring renewal, beauty, and bird song to remind us of the importance of taking time to pause, feel and root down into our faith, reflect on the gift of life we have been given, and renew our intention to be more mindful of what God is calling us to do.  While we may never perfectly master this, we can make progress just as the trees and plants outside my window did during those winter months.

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As seen on Instagram @studio8wv

      

       

       

       

 

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