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The Pause that Refreshes

Jul 8, 2019 | Matthew Evans

Taking a few minutes to pause a few times during the day and connect with what’s going on within your self can make a big difference to your sense of peace, happiness and well being.

Many of my clients complain that their life is too busy and speedy. They feel harried and hassled by the constant demands of the digital age, pressured at work, with little reprieve in their personal relationships. An image I frequently hear is that they feel their life is a constant uphill struggle, like being on a treadmill that they don’t seem to be able to stop or get off. The result is that they end up feeling drained, burnt out, stressed and overwhelmed.

If this is your experience, here is a simple practice that you could try to help you slow down and feel that things are are not out of control or that you don’t have to be constantly pushing, pushing, pushing through life. The first thing is to remember that there is time in your day – in the morning and in the afternoon, and perhaps even in the evening to take a brief pause and refresh yourself. What does this pause look like?

I have a busy workday but I take several pauses during the day. It takes only 3 or 4 minutes to do this practice, to relax and check in with yourself. The practice I recommend is called the 3 Minute Breathing Space as popularised by Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn. Each of the following steps takes about one minute.

Step 1: Awareness
Bring yourself into the present moment by deliberately adopting an upright, dignified posture. If possible, close your eyes. Then ask: “What is my experience right now … in thoughts … in feelings … and in bodily sensations?” Acknowledge and register your experience, even if it is unwanted.

Step 2: Gathering
Then, gently redirect full attention to breathing, to each in breath and to each out breath as they follow, one after the other. Your breath can function as an anchor to bring you into the present and help you tune into a state of awareness and stillness.

Step 3: Expanding
Expand the field of your awareness around your breathing, so that it includes a sense of the body as a whole, your posture, and facial expression. The breathing space provides a way to step out of automatic pilot mode and reconnect with the present moment. The key skill is to maintain awareness in the moment. Nothing else.

I encourage you to give this brief practice a go and see what you find. You may discover, as many of my clients have, that after a few weeks of regular practice (say, three times per day) that your speedy life starts feeling a little more manageable. You may find that your life slows down a little and becomes more pleasant and enjoyable. Give it a try, you may be refreshingly surprised!