The Power of Pause
Are you …
- Rushing from one meeting to the next
- Interrupting in meetings so you can get your idea in
- Failing to truly listen to colleagues
- Making hasty decisions
- Feeling a sense of anxiousness looking at the endless list?
In our multi-tasking lives, these kinds of behaviours are typical. We’re simultaneously listening, speaking, looking at notifications beeping during tasks…It’s endless, and our minds are being programmed to go with it. Not only this but our work busy schedules blur the lines between our personal and our work lives.
While we’re in ‘doing’ mode, we feel good as we’re getting things done, we’re working through the list, however, sometimes we get stuck in ‘striving mode’, where pausing seems unnatural or can leave us feeling unsettled. The environment we live in makes us doers, it is at times exhausting.
Mindfulness encourages pausing, stepping back, to connect to the breath or the body. This practice is nourishing. My natural inclination is to be a doer. I know if I don’t intentionally make space to pause I’m on that treadmill, playing a catch up game I will never win. Here we introduce the power of pause.
The Busyness of Life
The workday is endless back to back meetings, emails tasks. How often do you hear a colleague say I took time out to pause, to breathe? It is by pausing, paradoxically in that space, clarity, and attentiveness are created. According to scientific reports, we have between 80, 000, and 100,000 thoughts churning in our minds daily.
In addition to those thoughts, there are external stimuli, which necessitates further processing. Often, I hear the line ‘work (or even life) is like a treadmill: it just goes on and on’. If this is what is happening for you, then this is where the pause is invaluable. The pause in mindfulness is about just standing back and stepping off the treadmill.
It is about truly giving yourself breathing space. This pause does not have to be long – it can be 30 seconds, a minute, or more. But you choose to step back. You choose to reconnect with that inner self that is so often screaming for kind attention.
The Muddy Water
In Buddhist teachings, we find the metaphor of filling a jar with muddy water. The moving water churns the sand and all the elements that occupy the water. However, if the water is left to become still, then over time the sediments settle, and the water becomes clear. So too, with our minds: when we are constantly doing, working, planning, thinking, analysing, the mind is constantly churning.
That is part of normal living. However, as we are witnessing, if we place too much focus on this part of normal living it inevitably leads to high levels of stress and anxiety. Developing tools such as the ability to pause, to be still, to focus on the breath, enables us to step out of the doing mode. It enables us to tune into our bodies, tap into our senses, and to tune into what is going. It avoids pushing away difficult decisions, it gives you the clarity to help you respond wisely rather than aimlessly react.
When managing people, it fosters engagement and encourages you to be fully present with people. It fosters deep listening, curiosity, and, inclusiveness. All core skills managers require to be great leaders.
So go on, still the body and just breathe for a few moments.
The Power of Pause is just one article of many by Susan Keane, view more here.