Day 24: An Invitation Into the Sacred Pause
Today is Day 24 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s daily action is to commit to inserting sacred pauses into your life as you go about your day. Click here for resources, family actions, and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.
In this final week of Thirty Days of Love, we are invited to first pause, then reflect, then celebrate. As a practicing Buddhist, the spiritual practice of pausing is a large part of living out my faith in the world, and I’d like to invite you to join me in practicing the sacred pause today, throughout this week, and beyond.
Many people think of mindfulness meditation as sitting still for long periods of time and noticing one’s thoughts. Although this can be true, that is an advanced practice, and it’s not the only option. Mindfulness can be lived moment-to-moment in our daily lives in a profoundly simple and accessible way: all that is required is to simply pause, and notice, in the moment, what is happening for you.
The sacred pause is about just taking a breath—inserting a breath between stimulus and reaction. We are taught to leap to action; we are not taught to sit with what is real for us before reacting. We are also not taught how to bear witness to someone else’s truth. By inserting a breath after we receive a stimulus, the breath invites awareness, and out of awareness can grow an intentional response. The question becomes: can I be more intentional about what I add to the world? Can I bring a response to the conversation or even to myself that comes out of a sacred honoring of stillness and of breath and of humanity and of what’s here?
The sacred pause is not simply a stopping, it’s not a quick brusque assessment or a moment to stop and relax—what makes the pause sacred is that it is a call to bear witness, to notice what’s happening for us, to see what’s here right now. For example, take a breath. What’s happening in your body—what’s your heart rate, where are you holding tension? Are you hungry, are you thirsty? What are your emotions? Is there an unmet need in this moment? Breathe in, breathe out.
The sacred pause also calls me to bear witness to who’s with me—particularly when I am face-to-face with someone with whom I disagree or with whom I am in struggle—and take a moment to see the human being in front of me. Not the cause, the organization, or the politics, but the human being, because there’s always a human being. Part of the pause, the invitation to investigation, is a call to see my humanity and the humanity that’s around me.
I will never tell you that this is easy. The idea of taking a breath sounds simple, and it is—but it is a skill, a difficult and powerful skill, one that has to be practiced. My own history of trauma and PTSD mean that my instinct was once to either lash out or retreat so deeply inside that no one could reach me. Practicing the sacred pause, creating space between the world I had been trained to anticipate and the world that was currently in front of me, was a way to crawl out of immobilizing fear and disconnecting rage.
I invite you to try on this transformational practice that has allowed me to heal and to be an effective agent of change in the world. Today, commit to inserting deep breaths—sacred pauses—into your life as you go about your day. Maybe it’s ten times throughout the day. Maybe it’s on the hour every hour. Maybe it’s every time you stop at a red light or every time you open your mouth to speak. Pause, take a deep breath, check in with your humanity and the humanity of those around you, and whatever you do next, do it with intention.
Teo Drake is a spiritual activist, an educator, a practicing Buddhist and yogi, and an artisan who works in wood and steel. He is affiliated with Off the Mat, Into the World and the organization Transfaith. When this blue collar, queer-identified trans man living with AIDS isn’t doing faith-based welcome and inclusion work, he can be found teaching martial arts, yoga, and woodworking to children or blogging at www.rootsgrowthetree.com.