Day 17 of 30: Pause. Choice. Change.
What if I told you that the skills of calm focus and insight are a potential for radical positive changes in your life?
How does that positive change happen? One locus of change comes from the skills you have practiced so far:
1) Learning to pause
2) Noticing more
3) Choosing where to focus and where to give energy
Learning to pause
With meditation, the repeated act of stopping, of making an intentional break in the succession of thoughts and actions, becomes a habit. In your meditation practice you decide to put things on pause for 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 30 minutes, or whatever. What happens over time is you learn also to pause throughout the day. You will begin to notice (maybe you have already noticed) that you are pausing several times throughout your day. Pausing to sense what is happening in your body. Pausing to notice the details of a beautiful moment rather than speed by and ignore it. Pausing to notice the expression on your friend’s face and their body language. Pausing to choose to play with a child, and to defer washing the dishes (or whatever was next on your to do list).
Every moment is where the potential power of choice resides. You can’t alter your past. Your future is unknown. This current moment is where you decide where your energy goes, what to say, what to do. You can’t choose exactly what thoughts arise, but you can choose which ones to pursue and which ones to let go.
Over time, your pauses become fractions of a second in duration. And they will happen now … and then now … and then now. It’ll start out as a few moments throughout the day. Then more. Then most. Then almost all.
It’s not a weird awkward pause, where your friends and family say “What’s going on with you?” It’s a powerful pause that lasts for a very short time. Enough time to notice, check in, and choose.
When your thoughts are not leading you, but you are observing them, you notice more. Plus, meditation strengthens your skill of focus. You get better and better at where you place your attention, and holding it there as long as you decide it serves you.
With those skills of focusing and steadying your flashlight of attention, you wll see more. You will sense more clearly how you feel, you will see more clearly what you are thinking, you will notice in more detail what’s happening around you.
Choosing where to focus and where to give energy
This is the big one, right? So how do you choose where to focus and where to give your energy?
One approach is to use the power of the pause to check in with your intention. You may recall we talked about your intention for this practice at the beginning of this kickstart. By intention, I mean ‘what is most important to you.’ Moment to moment, you check in with what is most important to you right now. Then you choose where to focus and where your energy goes in alignment what is most important to you.
An example might help:
Pause: You’re in a discussion with your loved one. They say something like “Yesterday when you told me that the way I cooked the kale was wrong, it was another example of you trying to control me all the time. Even the way I cook food!” Then the power of the pause. By pausing, you give yourself some space. And you decouple the stimulus (what your loved one just said) from the habitual reaction (in this case, something you learned and have been practicing for years such as withdrawal or some form of defensive response).
Notice: You notice. “Ouch!”, you say silently to yourself. You feel a constriction in your chest. You feel heat in your face. “These feelings are uncomfortable”, you say silently to yourself, followed by “This is sadness. I feel sad because I am hearing that my comment about the kale yesterday was misunderstood.” That moment of self-compassion gives you enough ease to notice the other person. You notice your loved one: You notice her facial expression (down-turned eyes and mouth) and body language (slouched). She is upset. You are guessing she was hurt by her understanding of your comment yesterday.
Choose: You check in with your intention. What is it? Is it to be right? No, that’s not what’s most important. Is it to make sure you and your loved one feel good right now? No, that’s not it. Is it self-protection? No, that’s not it. Is it your relationship with her? Yes!, that’s what resonates with you. Then you consider silently “What would be in the service of what’s most important to me?” You decide that what’s in alignment with your intention is to show understanding toward your loved one, acknowledge her hurt, and share with her that you do not want her to feel that way. You connect to your warmth and kindness so your tone and body language aligns with your intention. Then you say something like “I am hearing that what you heard me say yesterday about the kale hurt you. It felt controlling. Thank you for telling me. I care about you. I don’t want the things I say and do to cause you hurt or to make you feel controllled. What is it like for you to hear me say that?”
It takes skill. It takes practice. It takes self-connection. And there is not one right way to respond to any situation. Instead, you check in with your intention and allow your intention to influence what you choose.
Does this approach sound possible, impossible, liberating, crazy, or something else? My guess is it would be helpful to others if you share your thoughts about it in the comments below so we can build a shared sense of our experiences & understanding.
For today, the proposal is similar to previous days: If possible for you today, invest in a slight longer time for your meditation practice. (If 5 minutes each day until now, try 10 today. If 10, try 15.) Practice calm focus meditation until you notice a deepening concentration, and then direct your awareness to watch your mind for the remainder of your time. As each thought arises, say hello to it, welcome it, and then let it go. After letting it go, return your awareness to your felt sense of breathing for a few breaths before returning your attention to your mind again. Continue until the end of your meditation time for today.
Throughout the day today, my invitation to you is to notice the opportunities to pause, to notice, to check in with your intention, and to choose. It is helpful to journal about those times and also the times you noticed when you did not pause and what happened then. This is not about judgment and criticism. It is about learning and re-committing to what you want more of in your life “from now on …” .
Please share what you notice and any other observations in the comments below so everyone can benefit from your experiences. Please raise awareness of this content by sharing it using the social media icons adjacent to it. Please reach out to me if I can support you.
See you tomorrow!
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