The Power of Pause
By Laura Berland, September, 2014
The day after Labor Day is known in these parts as Tumbleweed Tuesday. Yes, the traffic calms and you can eat at any restaurant that has the stamina to stay open. But these are just the visible signs of a giant East End exhale—it’s as if those of us still here collectively let go and say ahhhhhhhhh.
On that Tuesday morning, Colleen’s restorative sequence perfectly nurtures the heavy sigh, opening us up to a deep relaxation that brings us back to balance. And as a newcomer to the Yoga Shanti tribe, when I first came into the yoga room not familiar with this grand tradition, it was a welcome respite of calm before the impending wave of fall activity.
There is no stopping the engine that revs into high gear as back-to-school, work, and everyday life demand that we plug more deeply into our digital devices. Apps abound and the cloud holds the content of our lives. And yet this is just the dawn of the internet of everything.
So there is no denying our status update—we are fully connected. Always on. In fact, if you sleep with your cell phone, you are in good company. According to annual Pew Research studies, 65% of adults do it, and that jumps to 90% if your fall between the ages 18 and 29.
The irony is that while we are virtually connected 24/7, we are increasingly more disconnected from the present moment, from each other, and from our true selves.
The digital dominance in our life leaves little or no down time for the mind to rest. And we are already proud owners of a perfectly busy monkey mind. So now the mind is in hyper drive—over stimulated by the constant barrage of highly seductive digital distractions.
How do we slow it down? Who can hear their inner voice, take time to notice their breath, or look into the eyes of a loved one instead of a glowing screen?
I’ve been tethered far longer than most, starting down the digital media path in 1980. Learning to unplug was just a career survival strategy then, but now it’s a required life skill for everyone in our supercharged era.
Short of a full hog digital detox, here are simple ways to press pause, give your mind a rest, and make space to relax.
- Schedule time for daily practice. Put it in the calendar like any other appointment—and be consistent. Make it a habit, and the magic will unfold. See Yoga Sutra 1.12 -1.16 to hack the roadmap to freedom.
- Cultivate discernment—viveka—for what you decide to chase down the digital rabbit hole. Challenge yourself to get offline in a reasonably short period of time.
- Pause your online sessions every 20-30 minutes to save your body and mind. Get up, stand up. Step away from the screen. Do some full breathing, and move around before restarting.
- Place your bare feet or body on the bare earth for a few minutes each day. We are blessed to live by the ocean, so if you can do it on the sand, even better. This practice of earthing will ground and rejuvenate you.
- Spend more time in nature. You’ll find it’s easy to exhale here. Simply enjoy and delight in the magnificence that surrounds us.
- Do things that you love to do, sooner rather than later. Savor the feeling that arises as your engage in your chosen passion. Repeat often.
- Experience precious time with family and friends, fully present. No devices. Lay down your weapons of distraction. The neuroscience tells us there is no such thing as multitasking, so remember what human interaction is all about.
- Take short pauses throughout your day for breath awareness. Eyes open or closed. Sitting, standing, or lying down. One breath or one hundred. Whenever you feel like it, the breath is always with you, always available to help you navigate the inner terrain.
As Pema Chodron shares in When Things Fall Apart, “It’s a transformative experience to simply pause instead of immediately fill up the space. By waiting, we begin to connect with fundamental restlessness as well as fundamental spaciousness.”
Just remember, at any moment you can simply inhale, exhale, pause. How lucky are we? Om Om.