Take a moment and count to 5. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Now, think back to the last time you felt overwhelmed, out of control or generally triggered. In that moment did you offer yourself the opportunity to breathe and be still for a few seconds? Or did you dig into the distraction and begin to spiral out? First, let me say there are no wrong answers here. Whether you gave yourself the pause, used every bit of your imagination to spiral into worst-case scenarios or fell somewhere in between; it’s all good. We’re all learning what it takes to show up in our fullness from moment to moment.
Pausing for a moment to allow yourself to feel all of your feelings can be a powerful tool to center your thoughts and emotions in the present moment. It gives you an opportunity to respond versus react. On the other side of the same coin, it can also be pretty scary and isolating to truly feel what you’re feeling at any given moment. While in this more vulnerable side of the moment, remember that learning to pause is a practice, and arguably the most important part is the release of judgment from whatever is arising.
Often times we are our own worst critics. We have been embedded with ideas of how we ‘should’ feel and how we ‘should’ show up. I invite you right now to stop should-ing yourself. The act of should-ing is a practice of self-judgment. It allows you to feel like there is something wrong with the way you’re truly feeling, but there is nothing wrong with how you are feeling! If we allow them to, our emotions can serve us as information. By taking a moment to pause, we can be present with the information without needing to judge it or break down why we’re feeling a certain way. We simply can just feel it.
So, this all sounds well and good right, but how do we release ourselves from our own judgment and begin to practice the ‘pause’?
First, we learn to be observers of self, noticing our thoughts and feelings without needing to rush past them or immediately break them down.This within itself can be a deep dive. In my meditation practice, I tend to focus on observing my breath first, my whole body next, and finally my thoughts. This gentle progression can take as long as it needs to. It offers us a way to focus ON self without digging too deep INto self.In my daily life, I’ve noticed how the stillness from my meditation practice has become more present in moments of being triggered. In those moments of stillness, I’m able to lean into the practice of observing.
Second, we find out what works for us as individuals. Do any of the following cues sound familiar to you? “Just take a deep breath and switch your focus,” “Think about something positive,” “Take a quick walk around the block,” or my personal favorite,“Find a quiet corner and just count to 10.” While all of these can work at various moments, quiet corners and positive thoughts aren’t always available for everyone once they feel triggered. Test out different tactics so you can find what tools of awareness and pause work for you. This will help you to authentically and consistently connect to your practice.
Lastly, be kind to yourself in the process. Just like building muscle takes dedication and moments of rest; observing yourself and learning to pause will have moments of discomfort, and that’s OKAY! Actually, it’s more than okay. It’s awesome! It means there is growth in your practice, and that’s something to celebrate!