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How to Take a Mindful Pause

How to Take a Mindful Pause

I know for me, even with a mindfulness meditation practice since 1980, I can still at times be swayed by habitual actions, chores, and activities without granting too much attention to them. It’s an auto-pilot that we probably all know so well.

We become caught up in the “doing” of activities or even in our thoughts by ruminating. In these times, we are not taking the time to pause and to be present. I know that I have to make the conscious choice to mindfully pause throughout my day.

When we can make the conscious choice to invite momentary pauses in our day, it helps us to be present, to ease stress, to refocus, and to ground ourselves in our being.

This is how you can practice this:

  • Make a commitment to pause at least three times during the day. You might set three alarms on your phone to remind you to pause.
  • When the time comes to pause (or when the alarm goes off), take a moment to stop what you are doing (so long as it is safe to do so right away). Put down your phone, your work, or anything else you are occupied with and take five slow and steady breaths. Note the sensations associated with each full breath.
  • Broaden your awareness to notice, one by one: Any physical sensations that are present, Any mood, feeling, or emotion that is present , Any sounds that fill your ears, The colours and textures of your environment
  • After approximately three minutes of this mindful observation, come back to your breath for five full cycles. When you are ready, continue on with the task at hand.

Then, take time to reflect:

  • How did it feel to put down what you were doing for these mindful pauses?
  • Where might you naturally invite additional pauses into your daily routine?

In my tradition, we use the temple bells to remind us to come back to the present moment. Every time we hear the bell, we stop talking, stop our thinking, and return to ourselves, breathing in and out, and smiling. Whatever we are doing, we pause for a moment and just enjoy our breathing. Sometimes we also recite this verse:

Listen, listen.
This wonderful sound brings me back to my true self.

– Thich Nhat Hanh

When we breathe in, we say, “Listen, listen,” and when we breathe out,
we say, “This wonderful sound brings me back to my true self.”

When we hear the bell, we can pause and enjoy our breathing and get in touch with the wonders of life that are around us — the flowers, the children, the beautiful sounds. Every time we get back in touch with ourselves, the conditions become favorable for us to encounter life in the present moment.

Hanh, T. N. (1995). Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life. Random House. (pp. 18-19)

See below for a 5 minute meditation that will help you to live in the moment and a reminder graphic of this process.

If you need assistance in being more present in your life, you can work with me in Mindfulness instruction or Mindful Coaching. Learn more here.

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