The beginning of a new adventure often feels exhilarating fueled by a full charge of positive energy. We have our map, a strategy, and a set of goals that we picture ourselves achieving at a set time. The end of a year is usually a period when we sit down and evaluate what we’ve achieved so that we can list a new set of plans based on what we’ve learned.
For TheraSmart, the end of 2018 was marked with a blog expressing gratitude and a summary of what failure can teach us.
Most of us have done this ritual of looking back before moving forward, and it holds great power in realigning our intentions toward our journey.
Now, more than half of the year has passed and it seems like the right time to check on ourselves and see where our hearts are and whether we still have the same enthusiasm for our goals since we started. Take a pause, so to speak.
A CULTURE OF GO-GO-GO
Technology and globalization have had a tremendous impact on so many aspects of our lives – from the way we communicate, to how we receive information. Our access to other people’s achievements (mostly through social media) has also affected our self-perception. We often compare our lifestyle and success with friends or strangers and it leads to various kinds of frustration and possibly poor self-esteem.
There is what we call the “hustle culture” where we’re encouraged to “keep on grinding” and believing that “Rest is for the weak.” Many successful personalities – from entrepreneurs to fitness experts – preach about working non-stop and “digging deep” to reach our heart’s desires. It’s a culture that gives big merits to long hours, high paying careers, and popularity among our peers.
Below are a few images that are examples of hustle culture.
While the general intention behind the abovementioned adages are well-meaning, it leads us to the question, “Is pressing the pause button an outdated strategy in today’s fast-paced world?”
The short answer is “no.” In fact, we need to learn (or re-learn) the power of pause, now more than ever.
WHEN IS IT TIME TO PAUSE?
We find pride in our ability to overcome struggles, and rightfully so. The ability to hunker down and focus on what needs to be done is a sign of emotional and mental maturity and resilience. But, as with any natural resource, that well can dry up when used in excess.
Brene Brown, author of “The Gifts of Imperfection: Your Guide to a Wholehearted Life” tells us that when we pause and choose to not hit the “dig-deep” button, it doesn’t mean that we won’t find a way back on track and carry on toward our dreams. For Brown, pressing pause means we love ourselves enough to take time to reflect and rejuvenate.
Burnout is one of the most common indicators of a need to pause. Many of us may have experienced mornings where we dread the idea of going to work; or passing the hours in “zombie mode. This state often results in poor quality of output and physical manifestations such as getting sick or feeling chronic pain.
It is in these moments that it is good to ask ourselves, “What is going on internally and emotionally? Does the inside match with what is happening outside?”
Working hard is a noble characteristic to have. But, there has to be a balance between hard work and meeting our deeper yearnings while doing so. And so, when the scale starts tipping one way, that is the time we need to take a step back and remember what our “why” is. It is by realigning with our purpose that we strike a balance between resilience to continue on the same path or to move to the next phase of our journey.
We have to remember that our emotions are directly connected to our purpose. The more aligned we are with how we feel, the more we are able to express our feelings and fulfil our “why” and the best way to listen to our emotions is by embracing the in-betweens.
Enjoy a cup of tea with your mobile phone off.
Spend some time in nature when ideas can’t find their way.
Pet your dog and watch their sleepy eyes with every stroke.
The pause doesn’t have to take days or weeks. A few minutes makes all the difference if we appreciate the stillness of the moment.
Another sign that tells us to press pause is when a major life event occurs. Moving to a new country, losing a loved one, entering a new relationship, or changing careers are just a few examples of major events that encourage a temporary hold.
The main areas of life that we have to pay close attention to are: work, self, and relationships. Sudden shifts within these areas have a ripple effect on the self.
Recall a significant event over the last 12 to 18 months. Did that event affect anyone else close? Be present and express how the event has affected you. Let the emotions sink in. Try not to simply go through the motions of the activity but rather absorb the elicited feelings.
Once we’ve determined the event that has affected us, we get clarity on the thoughts and emotions within that lack attention. The objective is to understand what is causing us to be stuck so that we can change our patterns. The only way out is in.
The time we spend doing this activity is life’s way of handing us a gift to revisit our intentions and revitalize our energy. A major event, good or bad, may be an opportunity for us to learn, embrace the experience, rather than avoid it, and express our true self. If we continue without examining how the external world has changed us internally, we risk spiralling down to confusion, depression, or apathy. This is where meditation becomes crucial.
IN BETWEEN BREATHS
“To know yourself as the Being underneath the thinker, the stillness underneath the mental noise, the love and joy underneath the pain, is freedom, salvation, enlightenment.” – Eckhart Tolle
The demands of our many roles – practitioner, partner, parent, friend, and more – make it challenging to remain still. But, at the end of the day, the person who matters most is ourself.
Micromanaging everything, including things beyond our control, is partly why we never seem to have a moment for ourselves. We can choose how we react to situations and if we choose to spend our limited energy reacting to every situation, then we will naturally run out of time for the things that actually matter, as well as ourselves.
Practising meditation helps us sort through our thoughts to distinguish which ones we can change or which ones we can let go. Meditation is not just about the in and out of our breath but it also involves savouring the in-between.
It is in these pauses of breath that we find our way back to ourselves. It is in these moments that we can find acceptance of what we can and cannot undo. Pauses between breaths are our chance to nurture and remind the self that we are worthy of joy.
I invite you to take a deep breath in…pause…and with the out-breath, come back.