The Magic Is In The Pause
Updated: Oct 11, 2019
Meditation is showing up everywhere and the statistics are incredible. Heart disease, depression, aging and anxiety are all significantly reduced with a daily practice of meditation, while compassion, open-mindedness, and creativity are all increased. Jumping into Richard Davidson’s work at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, it is a challenge to find one thing meditation does not improve. So why isn’t everyone doing this daily?
Because It’s Hard!
Meditation is to “turn off your thoughts” while focusing on your breath for a set amount of time. This sounds so neat and tidy. And it is for about 8 seconds. There is great confidence when I first get settled in a seated position. Good posture. My head is elevated above my shoulders but relaxed. My breath feels good coming in and out of my body. I feel a little giddy that I am sitting crisscross applesauce and then the newness wears off and Times Square shows up. Pings of thoughts and flashes of forgots chatter away like casino slot machines. My hip starts to ache, and I wonder what I am doing sitting in this uncomfortable position. I return to my breath only to think about something else while I am trying not to think about anything. Guess what? I’m still doing it correctly. Reposition, return to breath, stop thinking…again.
Meditation is hard because we feel like we fail when the natural cycle of thought takes hold. On a daily basis, our brain gets the blue ribbon for taking charge and getting things done. We reward thinking with feelings of confidence and control. So, conversely, our mind does NOT LIKE being put in a time out and our ego will not be put in the corner willingly. The “fight” that happens can feel like a zoo getting released into our psyche.
So then what? It’s getting messy in here?!
Keep going. The process of meditation is meeting your bears, monkeys and sloths. Our wins, to do’s, and failures all want to come out to play when we settle in to meditate. Meet the menagerie but do not engage with the beasts/thoughts. Notice thinking. Name, “Thinking.”. Return to the breath.
Notice. Name. Return. No judgement. No condemning self at the effort. Simply notice what is. Name what is. Return to the breath and let go. Finally, keep going.
My “keep going” looks like this.
Keep mediation realistic and consistent. Alan Wallace, PhD., author of The Attention Revolution: Unlocking the Power of the Focused Mind, suggests starting at 3 minutes a day and working up to 7 minutes a day. 3 minutes a day is a success! Don’t diminish this effort and notice the results of this do-able start. Decide a set time. Spend 3 minutes focusing on the breath/not thinking. Notice when you are “just being” in these 3 minutes. Just being is that space of focused nothing. Repeat daily. Work your way up minute by minute over time. (7 minutes and 45 minutes have the same effect on the body! Thank you, Alan Wallace)
I have visited this sculpture several times and I love it as a symbol of my thoughts and ego. When I start meditating, I accept that my thoughts want to be I am. Thoughts can appear like frames of an 8mm film, popcorn popping, or different conversations at once. I’m not attached to the thoughts and I accept it’s constantly running. When I begin to meditate, I thank the thoughts and climb over the mental picture of this sculpture. Behind this image, there is a vast quiet space that holds me in meditation. On good days, I can stay in the vast space until my timer goes off 6 minutes later. On days of difficult focus, I’m climbing the I am mental wall over and over. But that’s OK. It is the process that happens daily that matters. Every meditator has “good days and bad days”. It is the attempt to still the thoughts that allows the crack of light to happen. This light is a pause to help see clearly. When I return to my breath in my day, I give myself a moment to settle in and be. It’s my pause. The magic is in the pause.
How the Magic Works
A consistent meditation routine is a practice of noticing and deciding. Noticing what is and deciding “my next” touches every area of life. When I can put my thoughts or emotion aside and and take a moment before reacting…I have transformed that moment into a decision rather than a reaction. There is a crack of light in the doorway of our goals that whispers, “What’s really important here?” It can provide a regular check in, “How do I feel right now?” which can lead to “What support can I ask for?”. The pause can open moments to appreciate, to have gratitude, and to love in a moment.
When the Magic Pause Happens
And yes, meditation touches a quiet vast place that feels amazing. It is a place that encompasses peace. It’s about connection and something bigger than an individual. There is peace knowing connection is the daily doing… not the wins, lists, or losses. Sitting with the peace is a daily respite for the soul. As much as our minds want to rule, 3 minutes of meditation reorganizes our responses in a powerful grounded place.
I have recorded a short guided meditation for you to get started. You can download it right here.