The Power of the Pause
One of the many benefits of mindfulness meditation is gradually gaining an ability to see the microsecond of time between an event and our reaction to that event. This concept may be new, so let’s think about it on a smaller scale which we can relate with.
When we meditate on the breath, we eventually become aware of the microsecond of stillness between the inhalation and the exhalation. We have another opportunity to witness and appreciate it between the exhalation and the next inhalation. Two opportunities to notice the pause in every single breath! Take 10 seconds to take a slow, comfortably deep breath now and see if you can find it. (Some days it is easier than others to notice, so if it’s not happening right now, no worries. Try again later or tomorrow.)
Once we find the pause, we then realize that we have the choice of seeing it, and even lengthening it so we can have a better look at it. What’s happening in that space and time? Does your body get quiet without the sound of breathing? Does it get still for a moment or two? What is the mind doing during this pause? Can it be curious and become still as well?
Now let’s expand this awareness outward to events around us. For example, if someone speeds past us in traffic and then cuts us off, we may initiate a familiar immediate reaction. This reaction comes from an existing program that runs automatically based on years of experience and practice. No thinking is required. We may get angry or resentful and we may use colorful words aimed at that driver, words that are best never actually heard because who knows what kind of day the other person is already going through.
What if we applied the same breathing meditation technique to find the microsecond between this event and our reaction? Just like we found the time and space between our breaths, we can make an effort to find the time and space to create a new program here. Rather than running the same old program which generates a negative reaction, stimulating the production of stress hormones and a story we’ll tell over and over, we can harness the power of the pause.
First, we learn to notice the space and to recognize the opportunity in this space to choose how we react. Then we react based on our choice. We can shout negative words and feel crappy, or we can take a breath, acknowledge that we’re all doing the best we can in each moment, release the negativity, and move on. This may be easier said than done at first, but with practice, we can hard-wire a new program and replace an old one, saving ourselves unneeded stress in the long run.
This technique can be applied throughout the day. We have so many choices available that allow us to create new programs. Old programs may take over when we’re not fully aware, and that’s okay. We can notice that too and make a conscious choice to run a new program next time. Use EFT Tapping to forgive yourself! It’s all good.
If you’d like to learn five ways to use breathing in your meditation practice, check out my book called Take One Breath: The Art of Managing Stress Through Mindful Breathing. It’s a short read with step-by-step instructions so you can start right away.
Keep Calm and Tap On!
Please remember: It's important to contact a professional if things feel too big for you, whether it be a physician, psychologist, psychiatrist, or certified EFT practitioner. Never discontinue your current medications without first consulting your doctor.