Pausing is stepping back from thinking and habitual ways of doing, and simply noticing.
~ Lisa Kentgen, An Intentional Life
I’m keeping it simple this year: besides putting my rotund cat on a much-needed diet, the only resolution I’m making is to pause more often. Just to stop, as frequently as I can, to notice what’s going on inside me and around me.
This may not seem very ambitious but, in reality, noticing is the foundation of all change. In fact, once you notice something, it’s already begun to change, automatically. This is something I frequently point out to the people I coach. Most often, becoming aware of negative patterns or things we want to change about ourselves makes us feel helpless or depressed, but really, noticing these things is something to celebrate: a sign that you are already on the way to forming a new pattern or response.
When you notice what you are doing, even as you’re doing it, it becomes less likely that you’ll do the same thing again in exactly the same way. It introduces just a second or two between stimulus and response. That pause, that second of awareness, is an opportunity to choose another way. Maybe not the third or fourth time, or even the tenth time, but eventually your response will change, simply by noticing.
The simple truth is, we can’t change what we aren’t aware of.
Of course, noticing isn’t just about the things we want to change. Pausing to check in with ourselves is a great habit to form. Are we tired? Hungry? Happy? Irritable? Does something feel off? How often do you put your head down during a busy day and barely come up for air until you hit the bed at night? How many days and weeks in a row go by like that? A pause to close your eyes, take a breath, and feel your own body takes only a few seconds, but those may be the only truly awake seconds of your day.
In that pause, you might suddenly feel the sunshine on your face, or hear a bird singing, or notice that you have a stiff neck and let your shoulders un-hunch. In that moment of coming home to yourself, you might suddenly realize how grateful you are for your life or, conversely, that you’re just going through the motions now and something needs to change. There are realizations and truths that simply wait for us to pause, to take the time to listen, before revealing themselves.
Lots of people resolve to meditate or journal or attend church or take a class, and all of those are worthy goals. But supporting them, on a foundational level, is the practice of pausing, of checking in, of becoming aware of your actual experience of life. There is no substitute for that.