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in a recent lecture on living “half a shade braver”, poet david whyte spoke of the importance of pause. he gave the example of how pause is employed to presence ourselves to reality before us, gather ourselves. and invite our Self in—all before making a move. The example he gave that has stayed with me is that of a competitive diver. Up there on that diving board, that athlete steps out onto the board with full focus.: one foot after the next. And before diving, the diver takes a pause. This pause evokes something greater, an energy beyond what would be available if that dive sprung from the ego, from a state of reactivity, from the state of moment-to-moment busyness that is our lives.

a strong belief i hold is the value in inviting groups to pause as we gather. pause to notice, gather, evoke. to help us remember who we are—individually, together—and our shared purpose of why we are gathering. since david’s lecture linking pause to living bravely, i’ve been more curious about this practice and its impact. does it really matter?

after two weeks of holding this question, my short answer is yes. pause does matter.

and the longer response:

there is a lot of energy brought into meetings. being online is no different. angst, anxiety, excitement, grief, rage. being physically distanced for months now with little opportunity for the casual, in-between moments of exchange, it seems our zoom meetings are more charged. there’s always a little of chatter that needs to happen at the beginning…and then a deliberate turn to focus on the purpose.

a pause here, helps.

i like a singing bowl to ring us into “the circle”. to invite attention. to awaken. and then something that brings our bodies along, too. connecting mind and body: a song, some breathing, a poem or prayer in the heart-connecting qualities those forms offer. and weaving the practice of pause throughout the gathering even further deepens the quality of the connection. practicing pause becomes an aspect of the culture, a way of being together. when there is something said that calls for attention before pressing onto to the next thing, taking a pause (ring that bell, ask for a breath, simply call it out and invite a moment to “sit with this”). these things matter.

in a recent gathering of twenty people, the practice of pause enabled us to notice what was important, what was bubbling up underneath the agenda items that needed our attention. as hard truths were shared that helped to illuminate this, instead of reactively moving on/moving away to the “agenda”, there was a capacity for presence and to listen. the agenda became less important as the commitment to allowing what was unfolding among us, emerge. it was uncomfortable, it wasn’t easy, it felt counter to how we normally operate. and it felt magical, powerful, transcendent.

we tell ourselves that we don’t have time for “pause”. there is business to do, things to take care of, problems to solve now. yes. AND what i’ve found is that it is in precisely these times that the pause is most called for, is most full of promise. instead of adding to the chaos—both within ourselves and in the world—a pause can balance that with a bit of stillness and order that brings forth just the dose of creativity and wisdom that is needed now.

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